The piece was scored for individual sections at a time. It opens with a full orchestra before introducing each of the instruments with more details, giving each instrument its unique variations that highlight its characteristics and demonstrate its common uses in the orchestra.
It begins with the highest-pitched instruments in the family (for example, piccolo and flutes in the woodwinds) and proceeds to the lowest (bassoon) while mixing various energies and tempo to highlight the varied instrumental timbres. For the percussion section, special prominence is given to xylophone and timpani, both of which produce particular pitches (pitched percussion).
To conclude the work, Britten combines all the sections of the orchestra with his own lively and brisk fugue (a combination of more than one melody at a time), which in itself is a variation of Purcell’s theme. The piccolo and the flutes open, and all the groups of instruments enter in an order in which they were first heard in the variations, stating new melodies as overlapping layers of music emerge. This allows listeners to hear the contrasting voices of the instruments. It introduces musical techniques from earlier periods, where a melody passes between instruments while other melodic ideas play in the background. With all the instruments playing together, the piece comes to a grand climax when the brass sounds the original Purcell’s theme, and builds up to a fortissimo finish.