Like The Swan, the English horn has a distinct solo part, yet Riflesso sull'acqua is anything but a concerto. The characteristic melancholic sound of the solo instrument comes from within the orchestra, and travels slowly behind the strings, from right to left, as if it were a celestial body tracing out its elliptical orbit. Occasionally the oboe in the orchestra plays in unison with the English horn, but most of the time it act as an echo or aural 'riflesso'.
The tone poem by Sibelius - master of the imperceptible transition - opens with a harmony in the lower register of the orchestra. It then rises during the first four bars, as if evaporating. The same happens in Riflesso sull'acqua. However, the gradual transit from dark, earthly chords to luminous, heavenly ones takes place not over a few bars, but over the entire duration of the piece. More and more the harmonic scope ascends and its ripple continuously multiplies.
The seven positions of the English horn are mirrored by the seven brass players. The four horns and three trombones are not on stage, but form their own curve amidst the audience. Their contribution is of an economical nature, reminiscent of the Finnish master, as they perform exclusively between the solo passages.
Towards the end of the piece an eerie illusion occurs: a white reflection emerges on the surface of the water, as if that of a swan, but the image is distorted and vanishes gradually. >>>