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  • Writer's pictureSimon Rushby

Sonata for Viola (1st movement) by Rebecca Clarke

#listeneveryday 5 Feb 2021

Today's blog brings together two things that are not heard enough: music for solo viola, and music by British-American composer Rebecca Clarke.

Clarke's Viola Sonata (1919) is mostly well-known to viola players, and in this first movement you can hear all kinds of influences and styles, from pentatonic folk music to Debussy-like Impressionism to Viennese Classical masters. The Sonata is a wonderfully colourful, vibrant and beautiful piece of music and well worth a few minutes of anyone's time to get to know it better. In this stunning performance, 16-year-old Sarah Sung brings out all of its colours and vibrancy.

Rebecca Clarke was born in England in 1886 and studied at music college in London, after which she enjoyed a career as a viola player. Most of her compositions were from the early and middle part of the 20th century, and many were for viola or string ensemble, but she also wrote many songs. She lived a large part of her life in the US and died there in 1979.

Clarke's music has been sadly neglected but The Rebecca Clarke Society was set up in 2000 to promote it, and slowly but surely more of her music is coming to the forefront.

More to listen to

This orchestration of the sonata was made very recently, and to my mind accentuates Clarke's influences from early 20th century Impressionism.

The whole Sonata can be found here

A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.

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