BEAMISH Sally, Trance

This piece was commissioned by the Trio Gaspard to sit alongside Haydn’s piano trios. The sound of these wonderful players was in my head as I wrote. Haydn’s trios famously give a pretty subordinate role to the cello, so my first idea was to make the cello a soloist in my piece. My relationship with Haydn’s F sharp minor trio goes back to childhood, when my mother, violinist Ursula Snow, performed it many times with her trio. I must have heard hours of rehearsal.  This led me to think of my mother, and how much I miss her, and feel I understand her better as I get older. This short piece is dedicated to her memory.  


I took F sharp as my starting point, and threaded in occasional notes taken from Haydn’s Andante cantabile movement. The harmonies, which form a repeated chaconne-like pattern in the piano part, are also derived from the Haydn, but in my own way, and not necessarily audible to the listener. The music is like a series of fragmented memories; the violin at first ghost-like, while the cello has an improvisatory line; the violin then drawing the cello into its falling 5th motif, while the piano has the solo line. The three instruments become equal as the music comes to a head, before dissolving into a quiet final statement of the chord sequence.  


The melancholic nature of Haydn’s trio affected my approach, combined with memories of my mother and her gradual disappearance into dementia. The title, Trance, indicates a meditative state, but also a ‘passageway’, or departure – the confusing journey of my relationship with my mother as her personality shifted, changed and faded. 


Trance was commissioned by the Trio Gaspard, and first performed at the West Cork Festival on 28th June, 2023. 

© Sally Beamish 


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