top of page


For Piano Trio

Composition Date: 1991

Duration: 10'



Commissioned by the Nicholas Younge Society. First performed by the London Smetana Trio, 1992.

Programme Note:



for piano trio

I became interested in the ancient `classical music' of the bagpipe when I wrote a piece for schools based on a story by Neil Munro called The Lost Pibroch. I incorporated several pipes playing traditional pibrochs mentioned in the story. For the legendary `Lost Pibroch' - a haunting melody which causes men and animals to desert their home and roam the world - I wrote my own full pibroch, and it is on this that I have based Piobaireachd.
The Pibroch, or Piobaireachd (Gaelic), is a set of variations on a slow theme, or `ground'. There are various set types of variation, using a simple paraphrase of the original melody, laced with ever more intricate ornamentation, so that the music builds to a frenzy of rapid gracenotes. At the end the `ground' is usually repeated.
I have done exactly this, but I have also used more contemporary methods of variation, experimenting with separation of ornament and melody into different keys, and even developing the `drone', which extends downwards by a tone in each variation, so that in the end it encompasses a complete whole-tone scale.
 Piobaireachd went on to become the starting point for my First Symphony.

The piece is dedicated to the piper Annie Grant, who guided me in my exploration of the fascinating world of Pibroch, in appreciation of her expertise and musicianship.

It is thought by some that the Pibroch may have been brought to Scotland from Cremona in Italy in the Fifteenth Century by the MacCrimmons, and so may well have roots intertwined with those better-known baroque and classical variation forms, such as the Chaconne.

Piobaireachd was commissioned by the London Smetana Trio, with funds from the Nicholas Younge Society. The trio gave the first performance in Lewes, on 1st Jan 1992

Sally Beamish 1991


Available Recordings:

Macmillan – Maxwell-Davies – Beamish

Gould Piano Trio

Featuring Piobaireachd by Sally Beamish

'The works on this album invite quiet contemplation of worlds far removed from the distractions and sensory overload of city life and, increasingly, of life lived before screens or behind screens. The composers represented here all have a connection with Scotland, as do many of their compositions.'

Champs Hill Records 2015

Search By Tags
Follow on Social Media
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • YouTube - White Circle
bottom of page