Rebecca Clarke was an English composer of the 20th-century who also claimed American nationality. Born and raised in England, Clarke spent much of her adulthood in the United States. She studied the violin at the Royal Academy of Music and Composition at the Royal College of Music, where she was Charles Villiers Stanford‘s first female student.
Rebecca Clarke was best known for her chamber music featuring the viola, and our recording this week highlights those chamber works with the Julstrom String Quartet who are joined by violist Kenneth Martinson and pianist Christopher Taylor.
Clarke was unable to finish her studies at the Royal College of Music, as her father suddenly banished her from the family home. To support herself, she undertook an active performing career as a violist, and in 1912 she became one of the first female musicians in the formerly male Queen’s Hall orchestra.
Though she wrote little, due in part to her ideas about the role of a female composer, her work was recognized for its compositional skill. Most of Clarke’s works have yet to be published, and her work was largely forgotten after she stopped composing. But thanks to recent recordings like this one, we are only now beginning to appreciate her output.
Our quick pick this week is from pianist Émile Naoumoff. On this release from 2001, he performs his own “Méditation” and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” with the German Symphony Orchestra of Berlin conducted by Igor Blaschkow.