Like Quintet no. 1, it is in three movements, yet the progression of attitudes is quite different. The movement through the entire piece shifts by degrees from an assertive, technically demanding character to music that is quite placid and ethereal.
The first movement is, for the most part, aggressive and driving. Its exposition consists of a number of relatively brief ideas sharply intercut. The center of the movement is a complete fugue employing a number of traditional devices including retrograde, inversion, and retrograde-inversion of the subject, rhythmic augmentation and diminution, and stretto. The recapitulation consists of a quiet and thoughtful reworking of the introduction to the movement and an evolution of one of the short ideas from the exposition.
The second movement has an underlying attitude of mystery and elusiveness. The pleasant and lulling quality of the opening gives way to a much more emotional and demanding music. The recapitulation further evolves the soothing character of the beginning, and the coda effects a mysterious disappearance.
The third movement is a chaconne, a continuous set of variations over a brief repeated harmonic pattern. This radically simple harmonic scheme, laid out in whole notes, persists undisturbed until the coda. Above it unfolds a solo, a duet, a trio, then a drive to the movement’s climactic point. The music then subsides to a restatement of the opening oboe solo, followed by a chorale-like coda that summarizes the entire piece.
Program notes by David Maslanka