Rebecca Clarke: Works for Viola

Vinciane Béranger / Dana Ciocarlie / Hélène Collerette / David Louwerse

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Rebecca Clarke: Works for Viola Review

by James Manheim

The music of composer Rebecca Clarke is better known than it was at the turn of the century, but several pieces tend to be played to the exclusion of others. One of these was the Viola Sonata of 1918-1919, popular due to the sparsity of solo sonatas for the instrument. Clarke was a talented violist herself, and here, the sonata kicks off a program of works that are unfailingly interesting and give some insight into Clarke's career. Most of the program comes from the years of Clarke's greatest productivity, in the late '10s and early '20s. Violist Vinicane Béranger teases out the musical strands in works of this era: a bit of Debussy, a bit of Vaughan Williams, with a delightful pentatonic Chinese Puzzle (1921) as the conclusion, but there are also later works. During World War II, Clarke, like Aaron Copland (who could have influenced her, for she lived in the U.S. during this period), turned to a broadly tonal idiom in such works as the inventive Passacaglia (on an Old English Tune) and the lyrical and timely Ukrainian dance the Dumka, both from around 1941. The Irish Melody of 1918 is none other than the tune known widely as Danny Boy, and it could profitably be used as a recital piece or encore. Béranger is confident and lively in the Viola Sonata, and not only violists but also anyone else looking for a way into Clarke's music might check this release out.

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