She was Charles Villiers Stanford's first female composition student and knew Maurice Ravel and Ernest Bloch. She made a living as a professional viola player, at a time when women were expected to marry and keep house, and her Sonata for Viola and Piano (1919) is regarded as one of the greatest works in the instrument's repertoire. Yet until fairly recently, the music of British-American composer Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979) was relatively unknown, and little of her work was published in her lifetime.Read more…
A mark of the low esteem in which female musicians and composers were held in the early part of the 20th century was the fact that critics and commentators suggested that Clarke's viola sonata had in fact been written by a man (possibly Ernest Bloch) because it was impossible that a woman could have written such a piece.
Happily, her compositional output, although relatively small, is now regarded as a significant contribution to 20th-century music. Big-boned and emotionally rich, her musical language is redolent of the impressionism of Debussy, Ravel and Vaughan Williams, and the modernism of Bridge, Bloch and Stravinsky, with lyrical melodies and lush, piquant harmonies. The viola sonata is a work of sweeping dramatic contrasts, infused with idioms of English folksong. From simplicity and serenity to complex jazzy rhythms with stormy outbursts, it makes full use of the expressive range of the instrument – one moment soft and yielding, rich and powerful the next.
[Due to geo-blocking restrictions, some tracks might be unavailable in certain territories.]