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Callisto (concerto for flute and orchestra)

Composition Date: 2005

Duration: 20'

Orchestration: solo-fl(pic,afl,bfl)/2(pic)+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/ timp.perc/hp/str



Commissioned by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

First performed by Sharon Bezaly (flute) / Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Martyn Grabbins, Glasgow 2005.

Programme Note:


for flute and orchestra

dedicated to Sharon Bezaly

  1. Callisto and Diana

  2. Callisto and Juno

  3. Callisto and Arcas

Inspired by Ted Hughes reading his own translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the different colours of four members of the flute family tell the story of Callisto, and her transformation from hunter, to victim, to bear, to constellation.

‘Callisto’ is, in a way, a mini-opera, with the leading roles taken by various instruments. The brass are celestial beings – horn, trombone and trumpet representing Diana the huntress, the lascivious Jove, and Juno, his enraged wife.

The first movement begins with ‘pillars’ of sound – an orchestral introduction with bell-like columns – the ‘massive cooling columns’ of the forest. The flute weaves a soliloquy from this material, leading into a chase featuring the horn. As Jove impersonates Diana, the trombones mimic her theme, building to a climax in which the flute becomes overwhelmed by orchestral sound.

The alto flute opens the second movement – Callisto broken, weeping. Jealous Juno’s rage and retribution is unleashed as Callisto’s son is born – a cool stream flowing over pebbles forming a background to Juno’s fury. As Callisto’s cries turn to the snarls of a bear, the bass flute is partnered by the timpani.

The last movement begins with a gentle tapestry built from strings, vibraphone and bass flute. A solo cello represents the young Arcas, who unknowingly encounters his mother and prepares to kill her as she advances, recognising him. The soloist moves from bass flute to alto, then to standard flute, before taking up the piccolo, as mother and son are spun up into the firmament in a whirlwind by Jove, who intervenes to prevent the tragic error.

The final section features a quartet of flutes with violin, trumpet and tuned percussion – ‘dancing around the Pole Star together’.


Available Recordings:

Beamish: Orchestral Works

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Martyn Brabbins conductor

Anthony Marwood violin

Sharon Bezaly flute


Violin Concerto


Symphony No. 1


Sharon Bezaly flute Gothenburg Symphony Royal Scottish National Orchestra Swedish Chamber Orchestra Martyn Brabbins conductor Anne Manson conductor Mario Venzago conductor


Sofia Gubaidulina ‘...The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair’ for flute and orchestra

Mari Takano Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra (In Memoriam György Ligeti)

Sally Beamish Callisto, Flute Concerto

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