Impressions of Beowulf (2018)




Program Notes

With a name as epic as its telling, Beowulf is widely considered to be the highest achievement of Old English literature and, with over 3,000 lines, certainly the longest epic poem.


Set in Denmark, this is the story of how the warrior, Beowulf, is called from Sweden by King Hrothgar to rescue the Danes from the savage monster, Grendel. Beowulf defeats Grendel, but then faces an even greater trial, Grendel’s Mother. After Beowulf is again victorious, he returns to his homeland as king of the Geats. Fifty years later, Beowulf roots out and defeats a treasure-hoarding Dragon, but not before he receives his own fatal wound.


In my Impressions of Beowulf, I depict a tranquil Scandinavian countryside that is blissfully unaware of the horrific derecho that Grendel, portrayed by the soprano saxophone, is about to unleash. As any hero is best personified by the French horn, so is ours.


This piece premiered on Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 by the University Philharmonia Orchestra in Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was one of nine orchestral premieres by student composers. Daniel Brottman was the conductor and BethAnne Kunert was the first saxophone soloist to play the part of Grendel.

00:00 / 05:35


Full Instrumentation


- 2 Flutes (2nd Doubles Alto Flute)

- Piccolo

- 2 Oboes

- English Horn

- 2 Clarinets in Bb

- Bass Clarinet in Bb

- 2 Bassoons

- Contrabassoon

- Soprano Saxophone in Bb (Grendel)


- 4 Horns in F (Beowulf)

- 3 Trumpets in C

- 2 Tenor Trombones

- Bass Trombone

- Tuba


- Piano

- Celeste

- Harp

Percussion (5 players)

- Timpani

- Bass Drum

- Snare Drum

- Crash Cymbals

- Xylophone


- 1st Violins

- 2nd Violins

- Violas

- Celli

- Basses