COMPOSED BY

Amy Beach (September 1867- December 1944) in 1941

DURATION

Approximately 4 minutes

Instrumentation

Flute, oboe, B-flat clarinet, horn in F, and bassoon.

SUMMARY OF THE COMPOSITION

Pastorale op. 151, Beach’s penultimate published composition, was her last chamber music work and her only work for woodwind quintet. It was based on her 1921’s Pastorale for flute, cello and piano, which she later revised for cello and organ. However, both of the versions were not published during her lifetime.

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About the Composition

Beach enjoyed being close to nature and working in parks and woodland. Her contrapuntal craft, interwoven with wide pitch and dynamic range, offers an ever-expanding idyllic soundscape. Her approach to the A-B-A form of the work was unique, in which the B section is marked not by the introduction of new material but, instead, a change of key (G to E-flat) and contrasting dynamics. The use of the lower pitch range of the clarinet and the oboe at the beginning of the piece brings out richer and rustic tones, underscored by the horn and the bassoon with their low and warm sustained notes. The heart of the work lies in the middle of the B section of the A-B-A form, as the music surges from sweet tranquillity to melancholy-tinged sonority at forte across all instruments.

WHO IS ... AMY BEACH?

Suprising fun facts

  • She was a piano prodigy and a pioneering female composer, who was mostly self-taught throughout her compositional training. After the 1892 performance of her Mass, she became one of America’s leading composers.

  • While self-studying compositional training, she copied and memorised the entire scores of symphonies.

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