Movement 1: Prelude: Presto scherzoso – Allegro maestoso
Movement 2: Idyll 'Love scene': Larghetto
Movement 3: Lament: Adagio non troppo e ben marcato
The first movement, ‘Prelude’, begins with a short scherzo in D minor which has a Mendelssohnian felicity in its lightweight scoring. This material appears to presage a movement of serious symphonic proportions, but it is abruptly cut short by the interjection of a ternary ‘dance’ movement in F major in which a central bolero-like dance is flanked by paragraphs featuring a simple, uncomplicated melody. This music has more in common with those lighter ‘salon’ scores of Elgar’s orchestral miniatures and with Holst’s Suite de ballet.
The ‘Idyll’, subtitled ‘Love Scene’, is unabashedly romantic, especially in the more voluptuous central section where the precedents of his late nineteenth-century forbears (notably Bruch and Tchaikovsky) are clearly evident. However, the thematic content of the outer sections with its pentatonic, pseudo-Scottish folksong, owes more to the Scottish romantic tradition of Mackenzie and MacCunn whose rhapsodies and suites still enjoyed a vogue among concert promoters and audiences during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. MacCunn’s Highland Memories of 1896, in particular, seem a likely precedent. The unconventional tonal behaviour of the ‘Idyll’ – though in A major it constantly gravitates to the dominant on which it ends somewhat cryptically – suggests, albeit tentatively, that the inexperienced Coles was showing signs of expanding his stylistic parameters. In the final ‘Lament’, a dark, brooding essay in B minor and by far the most contemporary of the three movements, he shows a greater willingness to experiment with more modern developments of modality and chromaticism. These tendencies are powerfully evident in the opening section and its more forceful recapitulation, though for the ‘trio’, a tender waltz, Coles reverted to a more overtly nineteenth-century language.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2002