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As so often with Finzi, the Five Bagatelles were written over a considerable number of years. They were completed during World War II, in free moments snatched from his work at the Ministry of War Transport, and first performed by Pauline Juler and Howard Ferguson at one of the wartime National Gallery concerts. The opening Prelude and final Fughetta are brilliant, extrovert pieces in similar vein to the corresponding movements of the Concerto. The Forlana is in a gently lilting 6/8 rhythm, interrupted only once by a more agitated moment. (The unusual title was used also by Bach in his Orchestral Suite in C, and by Ravel in the suite Le Tombeau de Couperin. It is defined in the dictionaries as ‘an Italian dance popular with Venetian gondoliers’.) The two remaining movements, the Romance and the Carol, are probably the earliest, and certainly the most typical of Finzi’s favourite mood of quiet contemplation. The reflective beginning and end of the Romance are contrasted with a warmly lyrical central section; while the Carol reminds one of his lovely Christmas Scene In Terra Pax, in which the Gospel account of the Angel appearing to the Shepherds is framed by Robert Bridges’ poem describing a frosty Christmas Eve.
from notes by Howard Ferguson and Robert Matthew-Walker © 1997