The Forgiveness Machine

For Piano Trio
(2010) 12 minutes
Orchestration: pf/

Commissioned by Phoenix Piano Trio as part of their Beyond Beethoven project. First performed by the Phoenix Piano Trio on June 29th, 2011 at The Forge Camden, London.

Programme note 

The Forgiveness Machine was commissioned by the Phoenix Piano Trio as part of their Beyond Beethoven Project. My work is very closely modeled on the second movement of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio and comprises a set of loosely structured variations, many of which are motivically very similar to Beethoven's. 

This work is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, Christina Hoad. I received this commission in the last months of her life, and would often sit in the room listening to the Archduke on my headphones while she rested. Beethoven’s music to me at that time had an almost transcendental quality to it, temporarily permitting an escape from the reality and inevitability of my Nan’s illness. It was this quality of serenity, beauty and dignity that I tried to emulate in my work. 

The title is taken from an art work by Karen Green: the Forgiveness Machine was made after the death of her husband David Foster Wallace and encourages members of the public to write down on a piece of paper what they want to forgive/be forgiven for before feeding it to the machine which sucks up the piece of paper and shreds it (the artwork is some seven foot long). Whilst in my case there is nothing to forgive, it was the feeling of catharsis that many people reported after interaction with this artwork that struck a chord with me and had tremendous relevance to this work. 

© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2011 


"A fabulous work, quietly intense and full of rich textures." Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill 

'the superb single-movement piano trio, The Forgiveness Machine, which sums up perfectly in 12 minutes the originality of her music.' Andrew Clements, The Guardian

"...the transcendental piano trio The Forgiveness Machine (2011, a meditation on the slow movement of the Archduke Trio.

The idea of catharsis in its psychological sense is also pertinent to the second work, a piano trio intriguingly entitled The Forgiveness Machine, which the composer’s informative note tells us has its origins in a physical artwork by Karen Green; apparently members of the public were invited to note down a past indiscretion on paper and submit it to the device which subsequently shredded it (Our house would certainly benefit from such a product). The music itself is cast in elegiac terms and reflects the composer’s experience of sitting with her grandmother during her final illness and listening to Beethoven’s Archduke Trio through headphones while her gran rested. This permitted moments of emotional respite. The resulting piece is extremely beautiful, and exudes a sense of serenity and consolation." Richard Hanlon, MusicWeb International 

"The Forgiveness Machine, after an art installation by the devastated widow of David Foster Wallace and based on material by Beethoven, explores 'catharsis' more explicitly than the cello concerto; the piece begins in elegiac solemnity, but rises to an emotionally wrenching climax."

Records International 

Performance history (post-premiere)

9th October 2018 - Le Strade del Suono (Something Real) Festival Sala del Minor Consiglio, Genoa, Italy

26th March 2015 - The Phoenix PIano Trio at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, part of the Leicester International Music Festival, UK

2nd July 2011 - The Phoenix Piano Trio at the Holywell Music Room, Oxford, UK


Buy Stolen Rhythm, Cheryl's CD featuring The Forgiveness Machine

Download from iTunes

Stream on Spotify


Peruse the score online with Issuu