Les rêves de Columbine

Amy Beach

Les rêves de Columbine

B71, Op. 65 • “Suite Française”

About this work

Amy Marcy Cheney was established as one of New England's leading composers and pianists when she married prominent Boston physician H.H.A. Beach, who asked her to limit her recitals to two a year in keeping with what he considered fitting for a society matron of the day. During their marriage, she honored this promise (although not excluding appearances as pianist in concerts and ensemble recitals as a guest artist), and combined it with her composing career, presenting her new works at each of her official pair of recitals. "Columbine's Dreams" was introduced at such a recital, at Boston's Hotel Tuileries, on April 17, 1907.

It shows that she was in contact with the wider world of music, and in particular with the vogue among many composers of the time for music about Pierrot, Columbine, and other commedia dell'arte figures. The piano suite comprises five movements between three and a half and four and a half minutes long, roughly, entitled:

1. La Fée de la fontaine (The Fairy in the fountain) 2. Le Prince gracieux (The Gracious Prince) 3. Valse amoreuse (Waltz of Love) 4. Sous les étoiles (Under the Stars) 5. Danse d'Arlequin (Harlequin's Dance)

In her notes, Mrs. Beach pointed out that the Fairy is "capricious, fierce, and sullen as well as gracious." The second movement is a stately gavotte. In the third movement, Columbine dreams of dancing with her sweetheart. The fourth movement is contemplative, and the finale is like a divertissement with a series of short episodes in different dance movements. The musical style is a very attractive late Romantic one, accomplished with exceptional imagination and skill.