Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)

Episodes

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01Studying with Stanford20170529

Donald Macleod focuses on period Rebecca Clarke studied with Charles Villiers Stanford.

Donald Macleod explores the period Rebecca Clarke studied with Stanford at the Royal College of Music

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

Rebecca Clarke was born in Harrow-on-the-Hill to the north of London in 1886. Her mother's family were mainly doctors, professors and clergymen from Bavaria. Her father, on the other hand, was from the United States and was a restless and colourful character, often given to beating his children. Clarke started to study the violin when she was young and in 1903 went to the Royal Academy of Music. However she didn't remain there long, for when her father found out she'd been proposed to by one of her teachers, he withdrew his daughter from the Academy. Soon she was enrolled at the Royal College of Music and started composition lessons with Stanford. A fellow student advised her to stand up to Stanford in her lessons, which she did, and Stanford and Clarke subsequently became very good friends. During this period at the RCM, which Clarke describes as an ecstatic time, she composed a number of works, including her Violin Sonata in D major and also her Danse Bizarre and Nocturne.

Lullaby
Philip Dukes, viola
Sophia Rahman, piano

Music, When Soft Voices Die
Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Theme and Variations in G major (excerpt)
Ian Jones, piano

Violin Sonata in D major
Lorraine McAslan, violin
Ian Jones, piano

Danse Bizarre
Lorraine McAslan, violin
David Juritz, violin
Ian Jones, piano

Nocturne
Lorraine McAslan, violin
David Juritz, violin
Ian Jones, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.

01Studying With Stanford20170529

Donald Macleod focuses on period Rebecca Clarke studied with Charles Villiers Stanford.

Donald Macleod explores the period Rebecca Clarke studied with Stanford at the Royal College of Music

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

Rebecca Clarke was born in Harrow-on-the-Hill to the north of London in 1886. Her mother's family were mainly doctors, professors and clergymen from Bavaria. Her father, on the other hand, was from the United States and was a restless and colourful character, often given to beating his children. Clarke started to study the violin when she was young and in 1903 went to the Royal Academy of Music. However she didn't remain there long, for when her father found out she'd been proposed to by one of her teachers, he withdrew his daughter from the Academy. Soon she was enrolled at the Royal College of Music and started composition lessons with Stanford. A fellow student advised her to stand up to Stanford in her lessons, which she did, and Stanford and Clarke subsequently became very good friends. During this period at the RCM, which Clarke describes as an ecstatic time, she composed a number of works, including her Violin Sonata in D major and also her Danse Bizarre and Nocturne.

Lullaby
Philip Dukes, viola
Sophia Rahman, piano

Music, When Soft Voices Die
Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Theme and Variations in G major (excerpt)
Ian Jones, piano

Violin Sonata in D major
Lorraine McAslan, violin
Ian Jones, piano

Danse Bizarre
Lorraine McAslan, violin
David Juritz, violin
Ian Jones, piano

Nocturne
Lorraine McAslan, violin
David Juritz, violin
Ian Jones, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.

02The Famous Viola Sonata20170530

Donald Macleod focuses upon the period Rebecca Clarke composed her famous Viola Sonata.

Donald Macleod focuses upon the period Rebecca Clarke composed her famous viola sonata for a competition

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

In her twenties, Rebecca Clarke found herself thrown out of her home by her father and having to make her way in the world as a jobbing viola-player in London. She was engaged by Sir Henry Wood to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra in 1912, and many other opportunities for freelance playing came her way, including travelling the globe. It was during the Great War that she toured the United States of America with fellow musicians, giving benefit concerts. Then in 1919 came an opportunity to enter the Berkshire Festival Competition, for which she composed her Viola Sonata. The judges didn't know the names of those composers who had entered the competition, and thought this work must have been by Ravel given its quality. In the end her Viola Sonata came second place to a work by Bloch, but this success propelled her music into the limelight.

Philomela
Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Morpheus
Philip Dukes, viola
Sophia Rahman, piano

Two Pieces for viola and cello
Michael Ponder, viola
Justin Pearson, cello

The Cloths of Heaven
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

Shy One
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

A Dream
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

Down by the Salley Gardens
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

Viola Sonata
Paul Coletti, viola
Leslie Howard, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.

02The Famous Viola Sonata20170530

Donald Macleod focuses upon the period Rebecca Clarke composed her famous Viola Sonata.

Donald Macleod focuses upon the period Rebecca Clarke composed her famous viola sonata for a competition

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

In her twenties, Rebecca Clarke found herself thrown out of her home by her father and having to make her way in the world as a jobbing viola-player in London. She was engaged by Sir Henry Wood to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra in 1912, and many other opportunities for freelance playing came her way, including travelling the globe. It was during the Great War that she toured the United States of America with fellow musicians, giving benefit concerts. Then in 1919 came an opportunity to enter the Berkshire Festival Competition, for which she composed her Viola Sonata. The judges didn't know the names of those composers who had entered the competition, and thought this work must have been by Ravel given its quality. In the end her Viola Sonata came second place to a work by Bloch, but this success propelled her music into the limelight.

Philomela
Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Morpheus
Philip Dukes, viola
Sophia Rahman, piano

Two Pieces for viola and cello
Michael Ponder, viola
Justin Pearson, cello

The Cloths of Heaven
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

Shy One
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

A Dream
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

Down by the Salley Gardens
Patricia Wright, soprano
Kathron Sturrock, piano

Viola Sonata
Paul Coletti, viola
Leslie Howard, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.

03Clarke's Ascending Star20170531

Donald Macloed explores the period when Rebecca Clarke's fame was rising: the 1920s.

Donald Macloed explores the period when Rebecca Clarke's fame as a composer and performer was rising, in the 1920s

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

The 1920s was a period in which Rebecca Clarke was very active as both a composer and performer. Clarke kept diaries between 1919 and 1933, and although these documents tell us little about her composing activities, we do get a glimpse of how hard she was working to promote herself including finding publishers and performance opportunities. In the wake of the success of her viola sonata, Clarke was still primarily living in London, and then came another milestone in her compositional output, the Trio for violin, cello and piano, composed not long after the death of her father. This work was premiered at the Wigmore Hall, with Myra Hess as one of the performers. Rebecca Clarke also knew many other composers from the time including Holst, Ravel, Bartok and Bax, and it's in her single-movement string quartet that we can hear her interest in Debussy and French Impressionism.

Epilogue
Justin Pearson, cello
Ian Jones, piano

Chinese Puzzle
Kenneth Martinson, viola
Christopher Taylor, piano

The Seal Man
Sarah Walker, mezzo-soprano
Roger Vignoles, piano

Trio for violin, cello and piano
The Bekova Sisters

String Quartet (Comodo e amabile)
Flesch Quartet

Sleep
Mark Dobell, tenor
Timothy Mirfin, baritone
Jeremy Bines, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.

03Clarke's Ascending Star20170531

Donald Macloed explores the period when Rebecca Clarke's fame was rising: the 1920s.

Donald Macloed explores the period when Rebecca Clarke's fame as a composer and performer was rising, in the 1920s

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

The 1920s was a period in which Rebecca Clarke was very active as both a composer and performer. Clarke kept diaries between 1919 and 1933, and although these documents tell us little about her composing activities, we do get a glimpse of how hard she was working to promote herself including finding publishers and performance opportunities. In the wake of the success of her viola sonata, Clarke was still primarily living in London, and then came another milestone in her compositional output, the Trio for violin, cello and piano, composed not long after the death of her father. This work was premiered at the Wigmore Hall, with Myra Hess as one of the performers. Rebecca Clarke also knew many other composers from the time including Holst, Ravel, Bartok and Bax, and it's in her single-movement string quartet that we can hear her interest in Debussy and French Impressionism.

Epilogue
Justin Pearson, cello
Ian Jones, piano

Chinese Puzzle
Kenneth Martinson, viola
Christopher Taylor, piano

The Seal Man
Sarah Walker, mezzo-soprano
Roger Vignoles, piano

Trio for violin, cello and piano
The Bekova Sisters

String Quartet (Comodo e amabile)
Flesch Quartet

Sleep
Mark Dobell, tenor
Timothy Mirfin, baritone
Jeremy Bines, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04An Unproductive Mouth20170601

Donald Macleod focuses on Rebecca Clarke's experiences during the Second World War.

Donald Macleod explores Rebecca Clarke's experiences during the Second World War when she was unable to return to the UK

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

In 1923 Rebecca Clarke received a prestigious commission to compose a new work for cello from the famous American patroness of the arts, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, sometimes called the patroness of American chamber music. The result was Clarke's Rhapsody for cello and piano, considered by some as the composer's masterpiece. By the 1930s however Clarke's output had started to tail away. This was a period of great unhappiness for Clarke, when she was having an affair with a married man, the baritone singer John Goss. With the outbreak of World War Two, Clarke found herself living with her brothers in America. She was not allowed to return to the UK as she was considered an unproductive mouth. It was during the war period that she composed her Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale for clarinet and viola.

The Aspidistra
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor
Graham Johnson, piano

Rhapsody for cello and piano
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
John York, piano

Three Irish Country Songs
Patricia Wright, soprano
Jonathan Rees, violin

Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale
Robert Plane, clarinet
Philip Dukes, viola

Ave Maria
Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04An Unproductive Mouth20170601

Donald Macleod focuses on Rebecca Clarke's experiences during the Second World War.

Donald Macleod explores Rebecca Clarke's experiences during the Second World War when she was unable to return to the UK

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

In 1923 Rebecca Clarke received a prestigious commission to compose a new work for cello from the famous American patroness of the arts, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, sometimes called the patroness of American chamber music. The result was Clarke's Rhapsody for cello and piano, considered by some as the composer's masterpiece. By the 1930s however Clarke's output had started to tail away. This was a period of great unhappiness for Clarke, when she was having an affair with a married man, the baritone singer John Goss. With the outbreak of World War Two, Clarke found herself living with her brothers in America. She was not allowed to return to the UK as she was considered an unproductive mouth. It was during the war period that she composed her Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale for clarinet and viola.

The Aspidistra
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor
Graham Johnson, piano

Rhapsody for cello and piano
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
John York, piano

Three Irish Country Songs
Patricia Wright, soprano
Jonathan Rees, violin

Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale
Robert Plane, clarinet
Philip Dukes, viola

Ave Maria
Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

05Clarke Fades from View20170602

Donald Macleod on Rebecca Clarke's final years, when she rarely finished any new works.

Donald Macleod explores Rebecca Clarke's final years, when she rarely finished any new works and faded from public view.

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

In 1940 Rebecca Clarke was active as a radio presenter, introducing listeners to string quartets by a variety of composers. It was in 1941 that she composed her tongue-in-cheek 'Get 'em all over at Once', for string quartet. It was also in the mid-1940s that Clarke became reacquainted with an old college friend, the musician James Friskin. Friskin said he'd long held a candle for Clarke, and they married in 1944. As both Clarke and Friskin loved Bach, it could have been for him that she made an arrangement of Bach's Magnificat for piano. Similarly, as Clarke played the viola and Friskin the piano, she may also have composed for him, around this same time, 'I'll Bid My Heart Be Still'. Clarke lived on into her nineties and died in 1979. In those last few decades her compositional output faded away, and it's only in more recent years that we've begun to re-evaluate and appreciate the importance of Rebecca Clarke.

Combined Carols (Get 'em all over at Once)
The Julstrom String Quartet

Bach arr. Rebecca Clarke
Magnificat, BWV243 (He Hath Filled the Hungry)
Ian Jones, piano

Dumka
Lorraine McAslan, violin
Michael Ponder, viola
Ian Jones, piano

I'll Bid My Heart Be Still
Kenneth Martinson, viola
Christopher Taylor, piano

Chorus from Shelley's 'Hellas'
Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Cello Sonata
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
John York, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.

05Clarke Fades From View20170602

Donald Macleod on Rebecca Clarke's final years, when she rarely finished any new works.

Donald Macleod explores Rebecca Clarke's final years, when she rarely finished any new works and faded from public view.

Rebecca Clarke was one of the leading viola-players of her generation and composed over one hundred works, many for her own instrument. In 1912 and aged only twenty-five, Sir Henry Wood engaged Clarke to play in his Queen's Hall Orchestra, and from then on she also performed with such luminaries as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz and Myra Hess in orchestral and chamber settings. Clarke was at the pinnacle of music making both in the UK, and also giving concerts as she toured around the globe. Arthur Rubenstein called her 'the glorious Rebecca Clarke'. As a composer, her viola sonata has stayed firmly in the repertoire yet few other works are remembered today, despite at one point having three publishers negotiating to publish her works. Donald Macleod is joined by Christopher Johnson who married into Clarke's family, and also Ian Jones, Deputy Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, to lift the veil on this once highly regarded performer and composer.

In 1940 Rebecca Clarke was active as a radio presenter, introducing listeners to string quartets by a variety of composers. It was in 1941 that she composed her tongue-in-cheek 'Get 'em all over at Once', for string quartet. It was also in the mid-1940s that Clarke became reacquainted with an old college friend, the musician James Friskin. Friskin said he'd long held a candle for Clarke, and they married in 1944. As both Clarke and Friskin loved Bach, it could have been for him that she made an arrangement of Bach's Magnificat for piano. Similarly, as Clarke played the viola and Friskin the piano, she may also have composed for him, around this same time, 'I'll Bid My Heart Be Still'. Clarke lived on into her nineties and died in 1979. In those last few decades her compositional output faded away, and it's only in more recent years that we've begun to re-evaluate and appreciate the importance of Rebecca Clarke.

Combined Carols (Get 'em all over at Once)
The Julstrom String Quartet

Bach arr. Rebecca Clarke
Magnificat, BWV243 (He Hath Filled the Hungry)
Ian Jones, piano

Dumka
Lorraine McAslan, violin
Michael Ponder, viola
Ian Jones, piano

I'll Bid My Heart Be Still
Kenneth Martinson, viola
Christopher Taylor, piano

Chorus from Shelley's 'Hellas'
Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, conductor

Cello Sonata
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
John York, piano

Producer Luke Whitlock.