Hopekirk, Helen (1856–1945)

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Hopekirk, Helen (1856–1945)

Scottish pianist who, after moving to America, became a champion of the music of Edward MacDowell and a composer of orchestral works as well as Scottish folksongs. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 20, 1856; died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of a cerebral thrombosis on November 19, 1945; interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery; daughter of Adam Hopekirk (a music-shop proprietor) and Helen (Croall) Hopekirk; studied piano with George Lichtenstein; received lessons in harmony, counterpoint, and composition with A.C. Mackenzie; studied with Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn (composition), Louis Maas (piano) and E.F. Richter (counterpoint) in Leipzig, 1876–78; studied under Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna; studied composition with Karel Navrátil in Vienna; studied composition and orchestration under Richard Mandl in Paris; married William A. Wilson (an Edinburgh merchant and music critic), on August 4, 1882 (died 1926); along with husband, became a U.S. citizen in 1918.

Helen Hopekirk was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1856. Having begun music studies at age nine, she then studied piano with George Lichtenstein, a Hungarian pianist living in Scotland, and took lessons in harmony, counterpoint, and composition with A.C. Mackenzie. From 1876 to 1878, Hopekirk attended the Leipzig Conservatory; she then studied in Vienna with Theodor Leschetizky. Her early successes took place in Germany, where she made her debut with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in November 1878.

Hopekirk championed the music of Edward MacDowell after she and her husband, music critic William A. Wilson, settled in the United States in 1897. In her recitals, she often performed music of the contemporary French school (Debussy and Fauré). She taught for many years at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. As a composer, her best-known works were a Concert Piece as well as a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, performed in 1894 and 1900. She also arranged and edited Scottish folk songs for piano.

suggested reading:

Hall, Constance Huntington and Helen Ingersoll Hall. Helen Hopekirk, 1856–1945. Cambridge, MA: n.p.,1954.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia