Composer: Rebecca Clarke (b. 1886 - d. 1979)
Performance date: 02/07/2017
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Composition Year: 1919
Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation: vn, pf
Dana Zemtsov -
Joonas Ahonen - [piano]
Clarke was a pioneering female musician and composer in the first
half of the twentieth century. The story she tells in the interview
quoted above gives some idea of the difficulties facing female
composers. She had a harrowing childhood with an abusive but musical
American father, who disapproved of her compositional ambitions but
nonetheless allowed her to study at the Royal Academy of Music in
London. He finally threw her out of home when she built a card-house
in the entrance hallway of the family home made up of letters from
1912 she was invited by Sir Henry Wood to join the Queen’s Hall
Orchestra, previously an all-male ensemble. She was also an active
chamber musician, often with the renowned cellist May Mukle with whom
she formed the all-women English Ensemble. She only published twenty
works in her lifetime although her estate included many unpublished
manuscripts. The Viola Sonata has rightly taken its place in the
repertoire of the growing band of international viola soloists.
the head of her score she quoted lines from the French poet Alfred de
take up your lute; the wine of youth is tonight fermenting in the
veins of God. This
clarion call is echoed in the opening bars by the viola before the
piano joins in with an equally turbulent accompaniment. The second
group is more lyrical and less assertive. The opening section returns
without the clarion call leading to a quiet coda.
excitingly spiky movement full of technical sleights of hand with the
viola mostly muted and the piano leading the way with its angular,
interlocking lines and violent dynamic contrasts.
quirky coda brings a final witticism.
with a soulful folk-like tune picked out in the piano, taken up
evocatively by the viola, followed by a lovely passage where the
viola floats above a rippling accompaniment. Gradually the emotion
intensifies before sinking back into a languorous pianissimo.
Another moment of magic sees the piano revisit the theme accompanied
by the viola tremolo
in raising the temperature for the final exciting bars.
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