This eleven-minute piece for strings in four continuously-played movements is aptly described by its title: It is an uncomplicated piece. After writing a major and complex work, Tippett often either spun off a shorter piece based on similar ideas, or wrote a simpler piece more or less for relaxation after the rigors of the major work. In this case, Tippett had an occasion for which he had been asked to provide a work: the tenth anniversary of the Jacques Orchestra, a leading string orchestra group. Reginald Jacques conducted the premiere in the same year it was written.
An anniversary observation of the great English Baroque composer Henry Tippett was very much in the air in Britain in 1946, and the "Little Music" was compared to a Purcell Fantasia when it was new. In this writer's opinion the comparison is really apt only in relationship to the third movement, the "air," which is a set of eight variations on a ground bass. The opening movement is reminiscent of Hindemith in its spare, linear texture, and serves as a kind of prelude to a fugue that follows, which is in a warmer and less severe mood. The final movement is brisk and energetic, although it concludes with a surprising quiet echo of itself.