Helen Grime's Piano Concerto (2017)

By Joseph Sowa

Joseph Sowa: Congratulations on the upcoming US premiere of your Piano Concerto by Collage New Music! According to your publisher, this will also be the work's third ever performance. How do you feel about the piece a year after its premiere?

Helen Grime: I often need a bit of space after the premiere of a new piece to decide how I feel about it. Hearing it again after a period can feel completely different. There is so much obsessive focus on a piece on the run up to its premiere that I feel better about the piece now than I did a year ago.

JS: In the program notes, you explain that your Piano Concerto is “a sort of mini homage to Elliott Carter and Pierre Boulez.” What was it about the specific works you mentioned (Triple Duo and Sur Incises, respectively) that spoke to you? How did you make them your own?

HG: When programming the concert where the piece was first performed, the Carter was suggested to go alongside. This influenced the choice of instrumentation. It is a piece which I have loved for many years for many reasons. The way Carter treats the duos is something that I was drawn to but have approached in quite a different way. For example, in the first moment, the clarinet and flute pairing and violin and cello duo play very different music with violin and cello not playing at all until quite far through the movement. Sur Incises is another piece that made a strong impression on me as a student. I wanted to amplify and expand the piano by pairing it with percussion and harp, almost like one-third of the Boulez.

JS: How do you see the relationship of the piano and ensemble in your piece? What prompted you to title it a “concerto”?

HG: It is a very intimate piece with a constant discourse between the piano and its associated duo of percussion and piano and the other two duos. However the piano is very much the leading force even if it is not always playing virtuosic material.

JS: What projects are next on the horizon for you?

My next big project is an orchestral piece for the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle to be premiered in April. I have a new song cycle for Ruby Hughes and Joseph Middleton in Wigmore Hall in February.