Rebecca Clarke. Ave Maria for Upper Voices (SSA) Unaccompanied

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Rebecca Clarke. Ave Maria for Upper Voices (SSA) Unaccompanied. (Oxford Church Music for Upper Voices.) [New York]: Oxford University Press, c1998. [Editor's notes, front cover verso; score, p. 3-6. ISBN 0-19-386080-5; cat. no. 94.415. $1.50.]

Rebecca Clarke. Chorus from Shelley's "Hellas" for Five-Part Women's Chorus (SSSAA) Unaccompanied. (Oxford Choral Music.) [New York]: Oxford University Press, c1999. [Editor's notes, front cover verso; text of Shelley's poem, 1 p.; score, p. 3-11. ISBN 0-19-386190-9; cat. no. 95.424. $2.95.]

Rebecca Clarke. Morpheus for Viola and Piano. [Edited by Christopher Johnson.] (Oxford Music for Viola.) [New York]: Oxford University Press, c2002. [Editor's notes, front cover verso and 1 p.; score, 11 p.; appendix 1 (alternate ending from 1st version), p. 12-13; appendix 2 (facsim. reprod. of lecture by Clarke, "The Woman Composer--Then & Now"), 3 p.; and part. ISBN 0-19-386436-3; cat. no. 92.207. $17.95.]

Rebecca Clarke. Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale for B[flat] Clarinet and Viola. [Edited by Christopher Johnson.] (Oxford Chamber Music.) [New York]: Oxford University Press, c2000. [Editor's notes, front cover verso; score, 16 p. ISBN 0-19-386238-7; cat. no. 90.700. $14.95.]

Rebecca Clarke. Songs with Violin. [Edited by Christopher Johnson.] (Oxford Vocal Music.) [New York]: Oxford University Press, c2001. [Editor's notes, front cover verso; score, p. 3-12. ISBN 0-19-386370-7; cat. no. 96.319. $17.95.] Contains: Three Irish Country Songs; Down by the Salley Gardens.

Rebecca Clarke. Songs with Piano. [Edited by Christopher Johnson.] (Oxford Vocal Music.) [New York]: Oxford University Press, c2002. [Editor's notes, front cover verso; score, 56 p.; editorial notes, p. 57-58. ISBN 0-19-386420-7; cat. no. 96.320. $34.95.]

In recent years, Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979), a British-born composer who eventually settled in the United States, has been gaining recognition as a distinctive and significant musical voice of the early twentieth century. She studied composition at the Royal College of Music in London with Charles Villiers Stanford and had a long professional career as a violist. Her first successes in composition were in the United States, and the two works written for competitions sponsored by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the Viola Sonata (1919; pub. 1921) and Piano Trio (1921; pub. 1928), have been central to the growing interest in Clarke's music.

In fact, up until now, little of Clarke's music apart from these two works (issued in several reprinted) has been readily available. In 1995, Boosey & Hawkes did publish the Song Album/or Medium-High Voice and Piano and Three Old English Songs Arranged for Voice and Violin, both with notes by Calum MacDonald, reprinting editions originally issued in London by Winthrop Rogers in the 1920s. The rest of her compositions, however, have either been out of print, or, for the most part, remained unpublished as part of her estate. Thus the recent publication of several of Clarke's works by the Oxford University Press is a long overdue event of great importance.

The six editions considered here present compositions of remarkable quality, in a variety of genres and styles, all of them previously unavailable. The works range from early pieces dating from about 1912 to compositions from the 1940s, or possibly even later. While I differ with some of the underlying editorial approaches and many details of the editing process adopted by Christopher Johnson, manager of the Rebecca Clarke estate in Brooklyn, New York, the strength and the remarkable power of Clarke's music shine through these publications. The musical readings are for the most part reliable and the editions are in every way usable by performers.

If Clarke was known at all as a composer in recent decades, it was as a composer of chamber music, and occasionally of songs. Thus the two choral works for unaccompanied women's voices, the Ave Maria and Chorus from Shelley's "Hellas," the first compositions from the Clarke estate to be published, offer a totally new perspective on her work as a composer. …


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