Saturday, 10 March 2012

Rebecca Clarke

I've been spending the last few days getting to know the viola music of Rebecca Clarke, which I first heard "blind" so to speak, not knowing who the composer was.

She was born in 1886, and as far as I can see, must have been one of the first really professional female musicians, working as a violist first in London, where she'd been taught composition by Stanford, and then in the USA. She must have been hot stuff, because she appeared with the likes of Heifetz.

Her most famous composition was the Viola Sonata of 1919 - which was considered too good to have been composed by a "mere woman" - but there are other absolute gems in her admittedly rather small output. Try "Morpheus" or "Lullaby on an Ancient Irish Tune". Each one is a real pleasure.

Try them all - there's a good CD of her compositions on Naxos, played by Philip Dukes and Sonia Rahman, along with Daniel Hope, and our one-time customer Robert Plane (he bought his first wooden clarinet here.)

Ironically in this week of International Womens Day, Rebecca Clarke appears to have been ignored by BBC Radio 3. But her work is so good it doesn't need special pleading.

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