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Rebecca Clarke: Works for Viola

By Arianna Bonatesta)

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By Arianna Bonatesta), Duo Runya (Diana Bonatesta, and Gabriele Campagna. By Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979). Classical. Listening CD. Published by Naxos (NX.AE16008).

Item Number: NX.AE16008

Rebecca Clarke (1886 - 1979) was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola. Clarke moved to the United States in 1916, after being disowned by her father. She had been supporting herself with some success as a soloist. Rebecca Clarke's Sonata for Viola and Piano is first known of in 1919, when the composer was 33 years old. The piece had its premiere at the Berkshire Music Festival in 1919, and was well received. Furthermore was published in 1921 by Chester Music. Because of the many different obstacles the piece presents, as well as its highly idiomatic writing, it is becoming more and more a staple of the violist's repertoire. Rebecca Clarke wrote little and a large portion of her works features the viola. Much of her music was written for herself and the all-female chamber ensembles she played in. The impressionism of Debussy is often mentioned in connection with Clarke's work, particularly its lush textures and modernistic harmonies. The Viola Sonata (published in the same year as the Bloch and the Hindemith Viola Sonata) is an example of this, with its pentatonic opening theme, thick harmonies, emotionally intense nature, and dense, rhythmically complex texture. The Sonata remains a part of standard repertoire for the viola. Morpheus, composed a year earlier, was her first expansive work, after over a decade of songs and miniatures.The "Passacaglia on an Old English Tune", also from 1941 and premiered by Clarke herself, is based on a theme attributed to Thomas Tallis which appears throughout the work. The piece is modal in flavor, mainly in the Dorian mode but venturing into the seldom-heard Phrygian mode. The Runya Duo sisters, Diana and Arianna Bonatesta, are perfect for adding sweetness and femininity to this music. They perform with such remarkable harmony and fusion, that they sound like a single musician! This perfect recording, by Alessandro Simonetto, is free from any mastering additions.

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