Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945) was a Scottish pianist and composer who immigrated to the United States in 1897 when she accepted an invitation to teach at the New England Conservatory. Hopekirk was fortunate to live and work in Boston at a time when women composers were not so unusual. Other women composing at this time included Amy Beach, Margaret Ruthann Lang, Mabel Daniels, Clara Kathleen Rogers, and others.
Hopekirk’s Concertstück was composed in 1894. The Boston Symphony Orchestra gave the work it’s American premiere, where Hopekirk included these program notes:
It will be noticed that the Concertstück is moulded pretty much on classical lines at its opening, but as it develops there is a characteristic freedom of form, and what may be called fantastic flavour, redolent of northern breezes and heathery hills. After a ff chord from the orchestra the pianoforte arrests our attention with a prelude. The orchestra then announces the Allegro con fuoco, which enters piano but increases rapidly to assume a wild and barbaric character. The second subject, which is like a plaintive love-song, is first delivered by cellos and violas, answered by the piano, then the full orchestra. An orchestral tutti, built on the prelude and the barbaric theme, leads to the development. After brilliant passages for the piano, the cadenza enters like a melancholy recitative on the first subject, capricious and fanciful transformations succeeding each other. A feature of the cadenza is the introduction of the oboe, which lingers with dreamy tenderness over the main theme, while the piano supplies soft harp-like harmonies. The short Presto finale provides a tutti conclusion.
More information about Hopekirk (including scores and recordings) can be found at the Scottish Music Centre.
This concert is free and open to the public – find more information here.