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The Four Short Pieces were completed in 1936 from sketches begun four years earlier. They were first performed by Pauline Juler and the composer at Wigmore Hall on 12 October 1937. Though so short—an irreverent friend referred to them as ‘The Four Whitebait’—they are sharply contrasted in mood, and each one is written in a different ‘mode’ (the equivalent of white-note scales on the piano) beginning on the following notes: No 1, A; No 2, E; No 3, D; No 4, F.
from notes by Howard Ferguson and Robert Matthew-Walker © 1997