Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Allegretto, tempo di polacca
The Adagio dispenses with drums, trumpets, and oboes. It starts with a smooth, curiously empty version of the drum motto. The piano material is ornately lyrical, and the only free cadenza in the work comes between the cadence on the dominant and the reprise. The finale is marked ‘Allegretto: tempo di polacca’, exploiting the enormous popularity of the polonaise as a ballroom dance at this time. After an introduction the drums again open the proceedings. The third drum is tuned to an unconventional pitch (C flat), on which the piano enters, starting what is otherwise a conventional polonaise, soon moving into skipping dotted notes. The second theme, after a big pause on the dominant, introduces inverted dotted rhythms (sometimes called the ‘Scotch snap’), and there is a third, quite unusual triplet theme for the piano. In the recapitulation the drumbeats come back, this time moving through remote keys before the procession of themes returns in the tonic and drives on to the inevitable bravura conclusion.
from notes by Nicholas Temperley © 2002