Dora Bright: Piano Concerto No.1


Sheffield-born composer, Dora Bright (1862-1951) wrote a number of large scale works, though not many have survived since her death. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music between 1881-89 under the tutelage of Walter Macfarren and Ebenezer Prout. Bright conducted big German tours during the early 1890s, where she visited cities such as Dresden and Cologne. Bright became the first woman to receive the Charles Lucas Medal for Musical Composition whilst at RAM, for her Air and Variations for String Quartet. 

Bright’s First Piano Concerto was composed in 1892, and is one of the composer’s most popular works today. 


The Music
Movement I – Allegro moderato

The bouncing woodwind opening highlights the core theme for the whole concerto. Once the piano arrives, the intensity rises and so does the dynamic of the music. The call and response figures between the soloist and the orchestra showcase Bright’s clever orchestrations which sees many voices interweave with one another. Bright’s style straddles both classical convention, but with an air of Romanticism also. A number of themes are explored during this opening movement, but they all lead back to the opening dotted quaver motif first heard at the beginning of the movement. After an extended coda section, the movement concludes with a reprise of the main theme played by everybody.


Movement II – Intermezzo

The slow central movement is dark in character, even though it is written in the style of a lullaby. The piano soloist opens the movement, with the orchestra not playing until c.1 minute into the movement. The fluctuating accompaniment supports the sweet melody that is passed around the orchestra. The piano leads with the melody throughout, with the strings in particular supporting and moving the music forward. As the music grows into the climax of the movement, Bright implements rich textures that exude colour. The dynamic slowly drops, which leads to the final few bars played by the soloist.


Movement III – Finale

A small duet between the soloist and the timpani opens the finale movement. The jaunty theme resembles the opening movement motif, and is first handled by the soloist before being passed around the orchestra. The theme is playful, light and full of character and when the voices come together to play in unison, the impact is quite the marvel. The piano part is especially tricky in this movement, which shows Bright’s prowess over the instrument. More than any other movement, Bright utilises the percussion section in the finale to create big waves of sound and to support the soloist. The concerto comes to its end after a bold orchestral theme is played as the piano runs up and down the instrument before all the voices end on the final resolution chord.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Emilie Mayer: Piano Concerto in Bb Major


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1 Comment

John · 12th March 2023 at 1:06 am

I recently heard Dora Bright’s piano concerto no 1 on the classical radio station in San Francisco, KDFC, and it was very beautiful and inspiring. She was truly a great talent. I wish there was more known about how she learned and composed music and what was her inspiration

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