Rebecca Clarke

Home / Artists

Years: 1886-1979

Place of birth: England

Rebecca Clarke was born in 1886 in Harrow, England. She was a violist and composer who grew up in a home where she suffered episodes of abuse from her father and the silence of her mother;
she was brought up as a woman in a social environment that contained oppressive residues of the Victorian era and she knew the success of her compositions after signing a man's pseudonym.
We sugest listening to "Morpheus" while you continue reading:
Opening new paths
The prevailing ideology on women artists in the early years of the 20th century was published in several writings of the Royal Musical Association (1) with the premises that women were only artistically receptive and therefore could not participate in creativity. A woman who went against this ideology at that time would be insulting to her own gender (Swinburne 1919-20).

The obstacles Rebecca Clarke encountered in her desire to become a musician were the starting point for beginning to reverse the process and create a new range in the artist's profile.

The society in which Rebecca Clarke lived had assimilated that certain instruments could not be played by the female gender, as the required body position did not fit the desired profile for women; one of these was the viola. However, in 1908, Clarke became the first woman to be admitted as a student of the viola in the history of the Royal College of Music in London, as well as the first to attend composition lessons, a specialty until then directed exclusively at men.

In 1912 she made history again for the female gender, when she was hired as a violist in the Queen's Hall Orchestra, previously an all-male ensemble, becoming one of the first six women admitted, and above all, remunerated, in a professional London orchestra.

Art has nothing to do with the sex of the artist. I aspire to be seen as a composer instead of being judged as if there were one type of musical art for men and another for women.

Rebecca Clarke

1 - British academic and charitable society founded in 1874. It is the second oldest musicological society in the world, after that of the Netherlands.
As a composer
Rebecca Clarke's compositional work includes a number of between fifty and one hundred works and a special dedication to her instrument, the viola, for which she composed a large number. One of her most outstanding works, which is currently a reference in the repertoire for viola, is her Sonata for viola and piano (1919), considered to be the best sonata ever written for the viola. In it one can appreciate the emotional depth acquired from a post-Romantic influence; as well as the exuberant harmonies so characteristic of the impressionist style of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

This sonata and the Piano Trio in E flat minor (1921) were presented in the competition of the Berkshire Chamber Music Festival (2) and signed under the pseudonym of a man, "Anthony Trent".

Was the recognition of his work, which was hidden behind this name, conditioned? Could a musical work reveal the genre of its creator?

Unbelief overcame speculation when, after being awarded second prize, it was discovered that the works had been composed by a woman. It was rumoured and published in the press that it was impossible for a woman to be the author of these works or that "Rebecca Clarke" did not exist, but that it was the pseudonym of a male composer. She herself defended her work: "I take this opportunity to emphasize that I do exist and that the Sonata for viola is my own work without any help" (Rebecca Clarke, 1977).

Recognised only as a professional violist and chamber music composer and performer, the choral and vocal music she composed between 1906 and 1944 was practically unknown until the publication of her Ave Maria and Hellas , in the last years of the 20th century. This genre constitutes the majority of her catalogue, perhaps because it was the one conventionally accepted for women composers?
2 - Classical music festival, held every year in summer since 1936 at Tanglewood. It currently consists of a series of symphony concerts, chamber music, choral, theatre, jazz and other cultural events.
3 - Poem written by the author Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1821, written with the aim of raising money for the Greek War of Independence.
As a performer

In addition to her career as a viola player in orchestras, Rebecca was closely involved in chamber music and was a member of several women's chamber groups. She founded two women's ensembles; on the one hand the piano quartet The English Ensemble, composed by Rebecca Clarke, violinist Marjorie Hayward, pianist Kathleen Long and cellist May Mukle and sponsored by American patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, who also commissioned her Rhapsody for Cello and Piano in 1923, making Clarke the only woman composer supported by renowned patrons. Rebecca would have appreciated Coolidge's initiative, which allowed her music to be promoted through the metaphor of a seed planted and turned into a tree (Clarke, 1950). On the other hand, she was a founding member of a string quartet with the sisters Adila Fachiri d'Arànyi and Jelly d'Aranyi, violinist and pianist, respectively, and cellist Guilhermina Suggia. From 1910 she was also a member of the Nora Clench String Quartet, the first string quartet with female instrumentation in Great Britain. In this case she shared music with violinists Nora Clench and Lusy Stone and May Mukle again on the cello.
Her music was unjustly silenced during times when it seemed that he had not composed anything and even his name was removed from one of the editions of the New Grove dictionary.

Unfortunately, his recognition was and remains low, probably due to society's views on the value of music composed by women. Only about twenty compositions were published during her lifetime and very few were premiered; and even for several years after her death, much of her work remained unpublished. Fortunately, today collectives are emerging that are dedicated to researching and compiling the work of forgotten female composers such as Rebecca Clarke.

It is said that Rebecca Clarke created her own silence 35 years before her death, when she left composition to dedicate herself to her marriage; however, during those years she dedicated herself to writing her memoirs, researching and teaching, and this legacy should never give way to silence.

- Combined Carols (1941) for string orchestra
- Theme and Variations (1907-1908) for piano. Discovered en 2002 and premiered in March 2002.
- Cortège (1930) for piano
- Danse bizarre (1907-1908) for two violins and piano
- Prelude (1907-1908) for two violins and piano
- Nocturne (1907-1908) for two violins and piano
- Finale (1907-1908) for two violins and piano
- Sonata for violin and piano (1907-1909)
- Lullaby (1909) for viola and piano
- Lullaby on a Ancient Irish Tune (1913) for viola and piano
- Dos piezas: Lullaby y Grotesque (ca. 1916) for viola (or violin) and cello.
- Morpheus (1917-1918) for viola and piano
- Lullaby (1918) for viola and piano
- Sonata for viola (or cello) and piano (1919)
- Chinese Puzzle (1921) for violin (or viola) and piano
- Chinese Puzzle (1921, 1925) for flute, violin, viola and cello (original for violin and piano)
- Epilogue (1921?) for cello and piano
- Trío (1921) for violin, cello and piano
- Rhapsody (1923) for cello and piano
- Como et amabile (1924) for violin, viola and cello
- Midsummer Moon (1924) for violin and piano
- Poem (1926) for string quartet.

- Combined Carols (1941) for two violins, viola and cello
- Passacaglia on an Old ENglish Tune in C minor (1949-41) for viola (or cello) and piano
- Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale (1941) for viola and clarinet
- Dumka (1941) violin, viola and piano
- I´ll Bid my heart be still (Old Scottish Border Melody) (1944) for viola and piano
Choral Works
- Now Fie on Love (1906) for male chorus
- Music, When soft Voices Die (1907) for mixed chorus
- A Lover´s Dirge (ca.1908) for mixed chorus
- The Owl (When cats run home and light is come) (ca.1909) for mixed chorus.
- Come, Oh Come, My life´s Delight (ca.1911-1912) for mixed chorus
- My Spirit Like a Charmed Bark (ca.1911-1912) for mixed chorus
- Weep You No more sad Fountains (ca.1911-1912) for mixed chorus (also for voice and piano)
- Philomela (ca. 1914) for mixed chorus
- He That Dwelleth in the Secret Place (Salmo 91) (1921) for SATB soloists and mixed chorus
- There Is no Rose of Such Virtue (1928) for baritone solo and alto, tenor, baritone and brass chorus.
- Ave Maria (ca.1937) for female chorus
- Chorus from Hellas (ca. 1943) for female chorus
Voice and piano

-Wanders Nachtlied (ca.1903)
-Ah, for the Red Spring rose (1904)
-Aufblick (1904)
-Shiv and the Grasshoper (1904)
-Chanson (ca. 1904)
-Klage (ca. 1904)
-O Weit (ca. 1904)
-Stimme im Dukeln (ca. 1904)
-Du (1905)
-The Moving Finger Writes (ca. 1905)
-Oh, Dreaming World (ca. 1905)
-Wiegenlied (ca. 1905)
-Durch die Nacht (1906)
-Nach einem Regen (ca.1906)
-Das Ideal (ca. 1907)
-Magna est veritas (1907)
-Manche Nacht (1907)
-Nacht für Nacht (1907)
-Vergissmeinnicht (1907)
-Spirits (ca. 1909)
-The Color of Life (ca. 1910)
-Return of Spring (ca. 1910)
-Tears (ca. 1910)
-The Folly of being Comforted (ca.1911)
-Come, oh Come, My Life´s Delight (1926)
-The Cloths of Heaven (ca. 1912)
-Shy One (ca.1912)
-Weep You No More Sad Fountains (ca.1912)
-Away Delights (ca. 1912-13)
-Hymn to Pan (ca. 1912-13)
-Infant Joy (ca.1913)
-Down by the Salley Gardens (1919)
-Psalm 63 (1920)
-The Seal Man (1922)
-Three Old English Songs (1924): It Was a Lover and His Lass, Phyllis on the New Mown Hay, The Tailor and His Mouse
-June Twilight (1925)
-A Dream (1926)
-Poem (Adagio) (1926) for voice and string quartet
-Sleep (1926) for tenor, baritone and piano
-Three Irish Country Songs (1926) para voz y violín: I Know My Love, I know where I´m going, As I was Going to Ballynure.
-Take, O Take Those Lips Away (ca. 1926) for tenor, baritone and piano
-The Cherry-blossom Wand (1927)
-Eight o´clock (1927)
-Greeting (ca. 1928)
-The Aspidistra (1929)
-Cradle Song (1929)
-The Tiger (1929-1933)
-Binnorie (ca. 1940)
-Daybreak (ca. 1940) for voice and string quartet
-Lethe (1941)
-The Donkey (1942)
-Down by the Salley Gardens (1919, 1950s) for voice and violin
-God Made a Tree (1954)