The idea for this work was prompted by an inspired howler in a student examination essay, which was (of course) discussing Bartók’s orchestral music. I had long been interested in writing a short set of pieces based on misheard titles or lyrics. This one had a charm of its own, and the short piece that resulted could be seen as a little fantasy-ballet around a yet to be determined narrative.
An early attempt was conceived for Violin and Piano, but never properly completed. The scoring I have adopted for the final version helps to draw attention to the folk-like character of some of the material. The normal tuning of the mandolin of the title is reflected in oft-occurring fifths, and the tremolando style of playing the instrument gave rise to passages such as those of the piano in the second section of the work. The choice of the piccolo was also to bring a shepherd’s pipe like quality, to quote Debussy. Bartók is never very far away – instead of going to the obvious source, I based a fair amount of the material upon one of my favourite short pieces, Free Variations, from Volume VI of the Mikrokosmos.