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Cello Concerto No. 1: River

Composition Date: 1997

Duration: 22'

Orchestration: solo vc/2(pic).2.2.2/ (min.



Commissioned by Robert Cohen and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.

First performed by Robert Cohen (vc) and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Mariner, London 1997.

Programme Note:

March Watercolour - The Kingfisher - Low Water - All Night a Music Like a Needle Sewing

I lived for seven years by Endrick Water. My cellist husband fished there. The river´s moods, swayed by the weather and seasons, were a daily background to our lives. The River poems, by Ted Hughes, written from an angler´s perspective, caught my imagination because of their depth and colour, and the many vivid sound images.

When Robert Cohen and I first discussed ideas for a new concerto, he suggested a piece in variation form. Suddenly I realised that a stretch of river is the embodiment of 'variation form.' - the same, but constantly changing. This idea, together with the inspiration of Robert´s particularly colourful virtuosity, were the starting point of the concerto.

It is in four movements, the first three running without a break. Each describes a different aspect of the river, reflecting the four poems and each develops from the same material in a different way.

Sally Beamish

Buy from Edition Peters


Available Recordings:


BIS 1999

Robert Cohen (cello)

Philip Dukes (viola)

Gordon Hunt (oboe)

Swedish Chamber Orchestra

Ola Rudner (conductor)


Viola Concerto (1995)

Cello Concerto ‘River’ (1997)

Tam Lin (1993) for oboe and orchestra

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