Movement 1: Prelude: Lento ma non troppo
Movement 2: Scherzo: Prestissimo
Movement 3: Alla Sarabanda: Lento
Movement 4: Burlesca: Allegro moderato
Its four movements are played attacca and share a thematic idea introduced by the first viola in its arching pentatonic solo that begins the first section, Prelude. The viola’s rich but haunting sound appealed to the composer (he played the instrument himself) and it plays a prominent role both here in the quintet and in the Second String Quartet. In the Scherzo the music sweeps along in 7/4 time over a bubbling Holstian ostinato, and is marked by a rhythmic freedom associated with English madrigals. A subtle change of textures is apparent in the third section, ‘Alla Sarabanda’, with the cello absent from the texture and the other instruments muted. The finale, ‘Burlesca’, further reflects the ‘phantasy’ form by being cast in several sections within itself, starting with the reappearance of the cello in a wryly humorous solo whose quirky character is taken up by the other instruments. It develops into a rollicking dance which is interrupted by a return of the Prelude music: the dance starts up again to be stilled only right at the very end as the music finally comes full circle.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2002