The Five Bagatelles
, Op 9 (1944) arose in this curious way: the pressures of war had made composing impossible for Ferguson, but when the work load eased he found himself faced with a problem of creative inertia. Almost jokingly he said to a friend, the South African composer Arnold Van Wyk, that if 'someone would give me some notes' he might get started. Van Wyk took him at his word and obligingly scribbled down six notes; from them what is now the second Bagatelle sprang. Four more sets of notes (which number from three to six) were requested and accordingly given; from them the other Bagatelles were fashioned. Widely contrasted in mood, the Bagatelles are akin to Brahms's character sketches, and the deft use of the given notes demonstrates again Ferguson's dexterity at developing and integrating extended movements from a single thematic idea. They are intended to be played without a break, apart from a short pause between the third and fourth. In the last Bagatelle Ferguson recalls the theme of No 2, as if as a gesture of thanks to his friend who was also the dedicatee. The Five Bagatelles
were first performed by Myra Hess at one of the wartime series of concerts at the National Gallery.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 1986