Sonata for Viola and Piano (1921)Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale (1941)Two Pieces for Viola and Cello (1930)Passacaglia on an Old English Tune (1943)
Patricia McCarty (Viola)withMartha Babcock (Cello)Peter Hadcock (Clarinet)Virginia Eskin (Piano)
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|Rebecca Clarke was born in London in 1886 and studied the violin from an early age. It was Charles Villiers Stanford, her composition teacher at the Royal College of Music, who suggested that she switch to viola. On graduating she freelanced and in 1912 was one of the first women engaged by Henry Wood in his Queens Hall Orchestra. In 1916 she visited the USA and, there, in 1919 entered her viola sonata for the Coolidge prize only to be beaten by Ernst Bloch with his suite for viola and piano on the casting vote of Mrs Coolidge. For the next twenty years she toured, playing chamber music and with little time for composing.
Stranded in America at the outbreak of Second World War, she resumed composition and in 1944 married the pianist James Firskin. Her output is mainly instrumental and vocal and she wrote nothing during the last thirty-five years of her life, dying in New York in 1979. The viola sonata is a major addition to the repertory and has been recorded several times. From the arresting opening of the Impetuoso first movement via the Ravelian Vivace to the final Adagio, it is both lyrical and passionate.
Patricia McCarty recorded this collection entitled Music for Viola in 1984 when it was issued on LP. Fifty-two minutes is short by CD standards and does not include Morpheus and the shorter viola pieces that would help justify the title. It is a pity that Miss McCarty does not bring to the sonata the passion she displays in the Passacaglia on an Old English Tune. At 2445 her performance takes longer than Paul Colletti (2118) and Yizak Schotten (2146). The Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale for viola and clarinet and the two pieces for viola and cello are attractive works well played. My preference is for Colletti (Hyperion CDA 66687) who also includes Clarkes Lullaby and Morpheus and pieces by Grainger, Bax, Bridge, Britten and Vaughan Williams. Yizak Schotten Crystal Records CD 637 - couples the Clarke with Blochs Suite and Hindemiths Op.11/No.4. 1919 what a rich year for the viola!