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Rebecca Clarke: Music for Cello & Piano

SRCD354
£14.99

Details

Rebecca Clarke (born Harrow, London, 27 August 1886 to US-German parents – died New York City, 13 October 1979) was an extraordinary woman with a tough, unconventional and long life story. Initially studying violin at the Royal Academy of Music in London but withdrawn by her father when her harmony professor there proposed to her, she was thrown out of the family home in 1905 by her father when she criticised him for his philandering. She had to fend for herself, turning to composition (she was Stanford’s first female student) and the viola which she studied with the great Lionel Tertis. She excelled in both fields and was soon able to support herself. She quickly became a leading chamber music and orchestral violist, working with all the major figures in London, including Frank Bridge and Ralph Vaughan Williams, Alfred Cortot and Jacques Thibaud. Her concert work took her around the world, especially with the cellist May Mukle and the pianist Myra Hess, the brilliant duo for whom the 1923 Rhapsody was certainly conceived.

Rebecca Clarke: Music for Cello & Piano

Reviews

“The disc is essential for anyone with an interest in British music.”

Clarke was Stanford’s first female pupil and an orchestral musician on a par with the men in what seemed to be a man’s world … This CD, so wonderfully and emotionally played by Raphael Wallfisch and John York also includes the Rhapsody for cello and piano. I agree with John York, in his excellent notes, who says that this is probably Clarke’s masterpiece. Wallfisch and York, as you might expect, make a great partnership and they know the music inside out especially the Sonata. As a consequence of York’s involvement with Clarke’s music he has composed Dialogue with Rebecca Clarke, which although it is very much its own piece does quote some fragments of her work. Stylistically it seems to me the sort of work Clarke herself might well have enjoyed using some of whole tone harmonies and repetitive rhythms one finds in her Cello Rhapsody and in the much better known Piano Trio. Gary Higginson, MusicWeb-International.com

Clarke carried out the cello version with the help of her colleague and friend, cellist May Mukle, something of a trailblazing figure among British cellists of her day, though she left behind pitifully little in the way of recordings. Wallfisch and York play this nicely up to tempo and it sounds idiomatic in this version, forming an interesting addition to the cello sonata literature … I’ll Bid My Heart Be Still is a musical love letter from Clarke to her Scottish husband, James Friskin. Like the Sonata, it’s rare to hear it for the cello. The Passacaglia on an Old English Tune was written a few years earlier and has a passionate intensity about it at a fast tempo. The Epilogue is an early work, dating from around 1921 and is finely judged here in respect of tempo and bow weight. Finally, there is another surprise in the shape of John York’s own Dialogue with Rebecca Clarke, written in 2007, an ingenious and exciting work that draws on themes from the Viola/Cello Sonata. It was written for the Moldovan violist Mikhail Mouller. York, incidentally, is creating a performing edition of the Rhapsody in collaboration with the Rebecca Clarke Estate.

Despite the increasing number of recordings devoted to Clarke’s music, this one stakes a very personal case in its all-cello-and-piano focus and will be welcomed – and admired – for its excellence. Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb-international