for string quintet
Composition Date: 2011
Instrumentation: string quartet and double bass
Commissioned by Lofoten Internasjonale Kammermusikkfest for Engegårdkvartetten and Knut-Erik Sundquist. First performed at Lofoten Kulturhus on 11th July 2011.
For some years, I worked on a short opera with librettist Lowri Potts, which took place in a conservatory. The ideas from the piece remained with me, and this quintet is a distillation of some of the themes, expanded in a new way, in an instrumental setting.
The story centres around a botanist, nearing the end of her life, and embittered by her circumstances. She experiences a kind of redemption when her granddaughter, in a fit of anger, wheels her chair into the conservatory where she used to work, and she finds her once-beloved plants have run riot. Opening a book of her own botanical drawings, she is reminded of the purpose and focus of her life.
The music portrays the damp, rarified atmosphere of the greenhouse, with birdsong echoing through the glass.
The piece is constructed around four plants: The Lily, Travellers’ Tree, Angel’s Trumpet, and finally Passiflora, which takes the form of a simple ‘aria’.
After this gentle aria, angry, abrasive music from the beginning of the piece erupts into an exuberant coda.
The double bass plays an important role, often as protagonist, with improvisatory passages and many of the melody lines.
Botanical Drawings was commissioned by Lofoten Internasjonale Kammermusikkfest for Engegårdkvartetten and Knut-Erik Sundquist. It was first performed at Lofoten Kulturhus on 11th July 2011.
Sally Beamish 2011
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