Rebecca Clarke: Viola Sonata (Hyperion)
★★ (out of five)
There are so many misnomers about Ms Clarke that it’s worth taking a sentence or two to put them straight. Clarke (1886-1979) is widely regarded as one of the first English women composers. But her father was an American photographic executive, her mother was German and as soon as she reached 30, Clarke sailed off to the US to spend the better part of her life over there, playing mostly English music in a trio.
Her own music is English in a rather dated sense of the term, heavily reliant on folk music and simple modulations. Her viola sonata is not helped here by being played in a cello version by Natalie Clein. Four pieces by Clarke’s fellow-violist Frank Bridge are not appreciably more cheerful. The redeeming feature comes at the end in Six Studies in English Folk Song by Ralph Vaughan Williams, doing exactly what it says on the tin and expansively rendered by Clein and her pianist, Christian Ihle Hadland.