The result is a highly accomplished piece which begins, almost impressionistically, in a relaxed frame of mind, Andante abbandonato, with a fluid string texture in D minor against which a languorous theme is heard on flutes and bassoons. This is restated in various guises before a brief idea on solo horn leads to the first dance—an extended Sarabande, marked Molto sostenuto. The key is E minor, with a contrasting third section in F, and is based on two themes, both heard initially on violas—the first solely on the violas, the second combined with horns. These themes initially appear very different (although the second is derived from the first), but are wholly redolent of the stateliness of this old dance form. They are developed, first in an archaic texture of solo violin, harpsichord and strings and, secondly, Torbido e agitato, by larger forces, before both sarabande themes are restated by the full orchestra. This subsides, and the opening rondo theme is recalled, leading to the second main part of the work, Largo, which is dominated by a new theme on solo cello, later combined with florid solo violin melismata. A superbly controlled accelerando leads to a recapitulation of the rondo theme, for the first time in full orchestra, luxuriantly scored.
The final section, Allegro, movimento di Forlana in 6/8, is another stylization of an old dance. This is in three unequal parts, the third of which marks a big climax which gradually dies down to reveal the connection between the Forlane theme and that of the Rondo. A brief coda ends the work quietly in G major—subtly revealing also that the preponderant D minor has been the dominant all along.
from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker Š