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For flute trio and cello

Composition Date: 2008

Duration: 10'

Instrumentation: 3Fl(Picc, A-fl), Vc



Commissioned by the Scottish Flute Trio. First performed by Scottish Flute Trio and cellist Robert Irvine at Sound Festival, Banff, Aberdeenshire in 2008.

Programme Note:


Dedicated to my daughter Stephanie, aged twelve, this piece is a ‘thank you’ for introducing me to the world of tropical fish. When her idea of ‘getting a goldfish’ gradually developed into a full scale aquarium of tropical fish, I had no idea how the presence of this miniature world would transform my life. I have sat for hours on end simply watching the fish – their beautiful and mesmeric movements, their vivid colours and personalities, their distinctive and sometimes endearing traits.

The piece begins with tiny stabs on alto flutes, underpinned by cello, and fusing together to make a sustained texture. Out of this begins to emerge the main thematic material: rising figures that burst out of the texture. After a while the alto flutes descend again to their lowest tessitura, and from there, the players one by one transfer to normal flute.

The central section is a lament for open waters, featuring a quartet of two normal flutes. alto and cello, and sighing, downward motifs.

In the final section, the opening material returns, overlapping and building to a fishy climax – a feeding frenzy, with impulsive, darting motion. The players move from the lowest tessitura, transferring to normal flutes and then to piccolos, so that the piece ends at the top of the possible register, disappearing into the ether.

Aquarium was commissioned by the Scottish Flute Trio with financial support from the Scottish Arts Council. It was first performed on November 13th 2008 at the Sound Festival, Aberdeen, by the Scottish Flute Trio with cellist Robert Irvine.

I wish to acknowledge the invaluable input, support and advice offered by Ruth Morley and the Scottish Flute Trio in composing this work.

Sally Beamish 2008


Available Recordings:

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