Helen Grime

Helen Grime - Piano Concerto

Writing for musicians that you have a close working relationship with is always an exciting experience and the opportunity to write for Huw Watkins, my husband, is something I’ve thought about and looked forward to for a long time now. Not only do I know his playing and unique abilities very well, he in turn knows my music intimately and has performed a lot of my chamber and solo pieces. Huw has the very rare talent of being able understand and interpret the music on an innate level and finds a way to inhabit the sound world very quickly.

Scored for solo piano and duos of flute and clarinet and violin and cello with harp and percussion, my intention was to create an intimate piece which is as much about chamber music as moments of great virtuosity and stillness. The piece is also a sort of mini homage to Elliott Carter and Pierre Boulez. Two works that are very close to my heart are Carter’s Triple Duo and Sur Incises by Boulez. Consequently the flute and clarinet and violin and cello are always treated as separate duos and the music each duo plays is often in contrast to the other in mood, speed, texture or gesture. Used sparingly throughout, these strands collide and interact at various points and in a range of ways throughout the piece. The percussion and harp, inspired by Sur Incises, scored for three pianos, three harps, and three percussion, act as a kind of extension to the piano, often expanding on, amplifying or echoing it. The piece is cast in 3 movements; the 2nd and 3rd movements transform and reflect on the material in the opening movement in different ways.

Helen Grime’s Piano Concerto for pianist Huw Watkins, premiered 3 March 2017 at Wigmore Hall, conducted by Oliver Knussen.

Born in 1981, Helen studied oboe with John Anderson and composition with Julian Anderson and Edwin Roxburgh at the Royal College of Music. In 2003 she won a British Composer Award for her Oboe Concerto, and was awarded the intercollegiate Theodore Holland Composition Prize in 2003 as well as all the major composition prizes in the RCM. In 2008 she was awarded a Leonard Bernstein Fellowship to study at the Tanglewood Music Center where she studied with John Harbison, Michael Gandolfi, Shulamit Ran and Augusta Read Thomas. Grime was a Legal and General Junior Fellow at the Royal College of Music from 2007 to 2009. She became a lecturer in composition at the Department of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London, in January 2010.

Helen has had works commissioned by some of the most established performers including London Symphony Orchestra, BCMG, Britten Sinfonia, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Music Center. Conductors who have performed her work include Daniel Harding, Pierre Boulez, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Sir Mark Elder. Her work Night Songs was commissioned by the BBC Proms in 2012 and premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Oliver Knussen. In 2011 she was appointed Associate Composer to the Hallé Orchestra for an initial tenure of three years. Her first commission for them, Near Midnight, was premiered on May 23, 2013 and a recording of her orchestral works performed by the Hallé was released as part of the NMC Debut Disc Series in 2014, which was awarded ‘Editors Choice’ by Gramophone Magazine.