Such was the scale of Coles’s Scherzo in A minor ‘for large orchestra’, that the composer may well have intended it to form part of a symphony. Whatever its purpose was, it was conceived as an ambitious canvas, full of humour and burlesque, an essay clearly designed to show off the composer’s flair for instrumentation. An introduction for brass and wind, with a satirical edge, introduces a fragment of the movement’s main thematic idea, which is later heard complete on the cor anglais and bassoon. A secondary, descending chromatic fragment, played by clarinets and violas, injects a more demonic, menacing flavour, and it is between this more mercurial world and one of sardonic comedy that the Scherzo fluctuates during the extended first group. A more lyrical ‘dance’ idea, initiated by the strings, dominates the second group, and it is this material, often infused with Walküre
-inspired augmented triads, that occupies much of the development. As tension mounts towards the development’s conclusion, however, it is the first-group material that reasserts itself with a new dynamism and it is this new outpouring of energy and colour, embodied in Coles’s intense re-orchestration, that reaches its apogee in the virtuoso writing of the riotous coda.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2002