Rebecca Clarke

Biography

Born: August 27, 1886; Harrow, Middlesex, England   Died: October 13, 1979; New York, NY  
Rebecca Thacher Clarke was a pioneering female musician and composer of the early twentieth century. Her father, Joseph Clarke (an American living in England), was a cruel domestic tyrant whose abusive behavior was a major influence in his daughter's life. All four Clarke children learned to play instruments expressly to perform chamber music on demand for thier father. This became Rebecca's introduction to music, which she augmented by copying Read more scores out by hand, increasing her knowledge of theory and composition.

She was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in London in 1903, but her father withdrew her when her harmony teacher, Percy Miles, proposed marriage. Her father objected entirely to her interest in composition, but nevertheless grudgingly sent some of her songs to Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, who accepted her at the Royal College of Music as his first female student. Stanford suggested she switch her performing instrument from violin to viola in order to gain a better feel for the function of inner voices.

At the age of 24, Rebecca's father threw her out of the house after she built a "house of cards" out of letters from his mistress (who living with the family, installed in her own wing of the house) in the entrance hallway. Liberated, Clarke completed her education, played in orchestras, and joined the Norah Clench String Quartet. In 1912, conductor Sir Henry Wood hired her as a violist in the Queen's Hall Orchestra, previously an all-male ensemble.

After two years' residence in the United States (1916 - 1918, while she and her brothers concertized), she toured the Hawaiian islands and undertook a world tour of British colonies in partnership with cellist May Muklé, a lifelong friend.

The best-known of her works are the Viola Sonata (1919) and the Trio for Piano and Strings (1921), both written for the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge chamber music competition. The Sonata tied for first place, but Mrs. Coolidge broke the tie in favor of the other work, by Ernest Bloch. (Interestingly, many listeners at the competition thought Clarke's Sonata was by Ravel -- identities of the composers were not revealed until afterwards.) The Sonata enjoyed a certain vogue as a result, but the Trio remained unpublished as did a major proportion of her work. The style revealed is similar to that of other British composers such as Arnold Bax -- harmonically rich and emotional, often with unexpected strength.

Clarke continued to play professionally in the 1920s and 1930s, eventually founding the all-female English Ensemble along with Muklé. She appeared often on the BBC and on recordings, but the onset of arthritis began to affect her performance. When World War II broke out, she remained in America, living with her brothers. She supported herself through composition and, when needed, worked as a nanny; she also hosted a program on music on a New York radio station.

In 1944 she married James Friskin, a former RCM student who became a Juilliard School faculty member; afterwards she ceased composing altogether. "I found that I could never work when I was in love," she once told her family. Her great-grand-niece Patriot Rebecca Johnson concludes, "I think that she finally had a safe, secure, and happy family life, and so the driving need to let out the unhappy emotions caused by her childhood surroundings and adult miseries was no longer there."

In 1976, her old radio station, WQXR, honored her 90th birthday with a program of her music, sparking interest in her works. A Rebecca Clarke Society supervises publication of her music; she may yet emerge as a major post-Romantic voice. Read less
Clarke & Ives: Piano Trios / The Bekova Sisters
Release Date: 08/22/2000   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 9844   Number of Discs: 1
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The Blissful Viola - Clarke, Bliss, Etc / Rutledge, Nosikova
Release Date: 01/30/2007   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2810   Number of Discs: 1
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Clarke: String Chamber Music / Martinson, Julstrom Quartet
Release Date: 02/26/2008   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2847   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 41 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    All Things Are Quite Silent / Lapwood, The Choirs Of Pembroke College Cambridge
    Label: Signum Classics   Catalog: 642 Release Date: 09/25/2020   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kerry Andrew,  Elisabeth Poston,  Anna Lapwood,  Sally Beamish  ... 
    Conductor:  Anna Lapwood
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Chapel Choir Of Pembroke College Cambridge,  The Pembroke College Girls' Choir
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  • 2.
    British Cello Works / Handy Hughes
    Label: Lyrita   Catalog: 383 Release Date: 11/01/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Smyth, Ethel, Dame,  Dame Elizabeth Maconchy,  Elisabeth Lutyens,  Rebecca Clarke
    Performer:  Lionel Handy,  Jennifer Hughes
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  • 3.
    Her Voice / Neave Trio
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 20139 Release Date: 10/04/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jeanne-Louise Farrenc,  Amy Marcy Beach,  Rebecca Clarke
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Neave Trio
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  • 4.
    Vivid Viola: Best Loved Classical Viola Music / Various
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8578186 Release Date: 08/09/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Georg Philipp Telemann,  Béla Bartók,  Zoltán Kodály,  Henri Vieuxtemps  ... 
    Performer:  Ladislav Kyselak,  Hong-Mei Xiao,  Roger Chase,  Roberto Díaz  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Edlinger,  Janos Kovács,  Yoav Talmi,  Markand Thakar  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Istropolitana,  Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra,  San Diego Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 5.
    Elles / Thibeault, Scarfone
    Label: Atma Classique   Catalog: 2772 Release Date: 03/08/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Clara Wieck Schumann,  Nadia Boulanger,  Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel,  Rebecca Clarke  ... 
    Performer:  Marina Thibeault,  Marie-Čve Scarfone
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  • 6.
    This Day / Campbell, Blosson Street
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8573991 Release Date: 01/11/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Elisabeth Poston,  Judith Weir,  Nicola LeFanu,  Stef Conner  ... 
    Performer:  Anna Lapwood,  Hannah Lawrance,  Annabel Thwaite,  Vanessa Bowers  ... 
    Conductor:  Hilary Campbell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Blossom Street
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  • 7.
    Clarke, Bridge, & Vaughan Williams / Clein, Hadland
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 68253 Release Date: 01/04/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke,  Frank Bridge,  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Performer:  Natalie Clein,  Christian Ihle Hadland
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  • 8.
    Come to Me in My Dreams / Connolly, Middleton
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10944 Release Date: 07/06/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Muriel Herbert,  John Ireland,  Thomas Dunhill,  Herbert Howells  ... 
    Performer:  Sarah Connolly,  Joseph Middleton
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  • 9.
    The End of Flowers / The Gryphon Trio
    Label: Analekta   Catalog: 29520 Release Date: 02/16/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke,  Maurice Ravel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gryphon Trio
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  • 10.
    Let Beauty Awake / Nisbeth, Forsberg
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 2182 Release Date: 08/04/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Rebecca Clarke,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Ellen Nisbeth,  Bengt Forsberg
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  • 11.
    Clarke: Music for Cello & Piano / Wallfisch, York
    Label: Lyrita   Catalog: 354 Release Date: 08/12/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke
    Performer:  Raphael Wallfisch,  John York
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  • 12.
    Trios from Our Homelands / Lincoln Trio
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 165 Release Date: 08/12/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke,  Arno Babadjanian,  Frank Martin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lincoln Trio
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  • 13.
    Ave Maria: Music for Upper Voices / Wickham, St. Catharine's Girls' Choir
    Label: Summit Records   Catalog: 10170 Release Date: 07/01/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Diana Burrell,  Rebecca Clarke,  Kenneth Leighton,  Judith Bingham  ... 
    Conductor:  Edward Wickham
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Catharine's Girls' Choir
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  • 14.
    Clarke: Works for Viola / Duo Runya
    Label: Aevea   Catalog: 16008 Release Date: 04/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke
    Performer:  Gabriele Campagna
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Duo Runya
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  • 15.
    20th-Century Women Composers: Amy Beach, Lili Boulanger, Rebecca Clarke
    Label: Dynamic   Catalog: 7717 Release Date: 04/28/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke,  Lili Boulanger,  Amy Marcy Beach
    Performer:  Mirjam Tschopp,  Claude Hauri,  Corrado Greco,  Lorna Windsor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio Des Alpes
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  • 16.
    Clara Schumann, Rebecca Clarke, Alba Rosa Vietor: Piano Trios / Storioni Trio
    Label: Ars Produktion   Catalog: 38162 Release Date: 11/18/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Clara Wieck Schumann,  Rebecca Clarke,  Alba Rosa Viëtor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Storioni Trio
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  • 17.
    1919: Viola Sonatas - Clarke, Hindemith, Bloch
    Label: Cavi Music   Catalog: 8553304 Release Date: 03/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke,  Paul Hindemith,  Ernest Bloch
    Performer:  Barbara Buntrock,  Daniel Heide
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  • 18.
    Violin Lullabies / Pine
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 139 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Eugčne Ysa˙e,  Vladimir I. Rebikov,  Amy Marcy Beach  ... 
    Performer:  Rachel Barton Pine,  Matthew Hagle
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  • 19.
    La Viola - Music For Viola And Piano By Women Composers Of The 20th Century
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1416 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Minna Keal,  Marcelle Soulage,  Fernande Decruck,  Luise Adolpha Le Beau  ... 
    Performer:  Hillary Herndon,  Wei-chun Bernadette Lo
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  • 20.
    Short Stories / Melia Watras, Kimberly Russ
    Label: Fleur De Son   Catalog: 58007 Release Date: 05/29/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke,  George Enescu,  Betsy Jolas,  Quincy Porter  ... 
    Performer:  Melia Watras,  Kimberly Russ
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  • 21.
    Brahms, Clarke, Vieuxtemps: Viola Sonatas / Tabea Zimmermann, Kirill Gerstein
    Label: Myrios Classics   Catalog: 4 Release Date: 02/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke,  Henri Vieuxtemps,  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Tabea Zimmermann,  Kirill Gerstein
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  • 22.
    Clarke: Works For Viola And Piano
    Label: Coviello Classics   Catalog: 50202 Release Date: 01/01/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke
    Performer:  Eric Crees
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  • 23.
    Keepsake Of Modern Age - Hindemith, Milhaud, Lutoslawski, Etc / Adler, Ruge
    Label: Neos   Catalog: 10805 Release Date: 01/27/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Otto Siegl,  Rebecca Clarke,  Paul Hindemith,  Günter Raphael  ... 
    Performer:  Thomas Ruge,  Julia Rebekka Adler
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  • 24.
    Clarke: String Chamber Music / Martinson, Julstrom Quartet
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2847 Release Date: 02/26/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke
    Performer:  Kenneth Martinson,  Christopher Taylor,  Andrea Molina,  Jay Zhong  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Julstrom String Quartet
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  • 25.
    Clarke: Viola Sonata, Dumka, Etc / Dukes, Rahman, Et Al
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8557934 Release Date: 01/30/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Rebecca Clarke
    Performer:  Philip Dukes,  Sophia Rahman,  Daniel Hope,  Robert Plane
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