Miriam Hyde: Piano Concerto No.1


Composed in 1933 when she was just 20 years old, Miriam Hyde’s Piano Concerto No.1 was structured from a similar work that was for two pianos. Hailing from Adelaide, Australia, Hyde moved to London in 1932 to study at the Royal College of Music. She initially wanted to study composition under Ralph Vaughan Williams, but instead she was tutored by Gordon Jacob and R. O. Morris. She also studied piano at RCM with Arthur Benjamin and Howard Hadley. The concerto was premiered in London with Hyde as the soloist and Leslie Heward conducting. The concerto marked a big step in Hyde’s career as she began dealing with large forces, as well as finding her own mature voice through her pen. 


The Music

Cast into three movements, Hyde’s Piano Concerto No.1 takes the listener on quite the journey.

Movement I – Allegro

Set in 12/8 time signature, the bouncing rhythm is set off by the orchestra. Interspersed piano interludes take charge of the music as the dominant piano part interweaves with the orchestra. Hyde’s handling of the brass creates big moments in the music where the drama and intensity hit their highest peaks. Hyde’s bold writing for the piano creates a confident impression from the soloist, which requires the same attitude back from the orchestra. This pairing of characters creates a big and expansive opening movement that showcases Hyde’s wonderful orchestrations and textures. After a reprise of the opening theme, the orchestra and soloist build from a quiet dynamic to bold and loud as the movement finishes off in a thrilling manner.


Movement II – Lento

The lyrical second movement opens with a horn motif, that is then taken and developed by the soloist. Here, Hyde experiments with various solo voices alongside the piano to expand the melody out. The sombre mood of this movement is bolstered with the Romantic-style of playing by the strings. The richness of character from this movement is also heard through Hyde’s manipulation of dissonance. Shadows of dissonance create sparkling colour across the ensemble, and with Hyde’s rich harmonic language, this is showcased fully in this movement. 


Movement III – Allegro scherzando

The scherzo finale movement is vivacious, with the opening orchestral interlude paving the way for the short piano interlude to follow. Hyde’s use of fast scalic passages creates whimsy in the music, giving the overall texture movement and direction. The bouncy rhythmic elements derive from the opening movement, with the central part’s character representing the second. The soloist’s virtuosity and bravery is tested to the limit throughout this movement, with big chords and intricate passages quickly passing by. The concerto comes to its epic finale after an ascending piano motif that results in the orchestra and soloist uniting for the final chords. 


Happy Reading!

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