2. Sonnet 18
4. Sonnet 60
The five movements of the work form one continuous whole. Each movement, whether instrumental or vocal, leads without a break into that which follows.
The orchestral part includes many solo passages for the three woodwind instruments as well as for violin, viola and cello. But there are also some powerful orchestral tuttis, when the voice is silent. The piano has a special role; it is first heard as a sort of announcer for the singer. Apart from this, in the dramatic vocal climaxes it supplies forceful accompanying passages which, however, do not drown the singer as a heavy orchestral accompaniment would inevitably do.
Sonnet 18 opens as follows:
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou are more lovely and more temperate:"
Then gently foreshadows youth's decline.
Sonnet 60 begins in realistic mood:
"Like as the waves made towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;"
Yet both Sonnets finish with the hope expressed that in the "eternal lines" of the poet's verse a measure of immortality is assured to the person addressed.
The work is dedicated to the composer's wife, Nancy.