A Clarke “discovery”—first time in print!


A first edition of Rebecca Clarke’s Irish Melody (Emer’s Farewell to Cucullain), the third of her duets for viola (or violin) and cello, has just been announced by Gems Music Publications, with release to follow almost immediately. 

This is a genuine “discovery,” and for once that term is merited in every way. The piece slipped from memory during Clarke’s lifetime, leaving only a few faint traces—a single, tantalizing newspaper-review in 1918, and two entries in Clarke’s diaries for 1927. It turned up again in 2015, out of the blue, in the form of a manuscript in the private collection of the late John White, longtime professor of viola at the Royal Academy of Music, London, along with the only known manuscripts of Clarke’s other duets for viola and cello, the famous Lullaby and Grotesque (Oxford University Press, 1930; rev. ed. 2002). White’s wife Carol realized instantly that she was seeing something new and unusual, and brought it to our attention. It is largely through her efforts that Irish Melody has been brought back to life, and can now be put before the public in an Urtext edition by Kenneth Martinson and yours truly.

It’s a honey of a piece—fully the equal of its better-known peers—a full-throated arrangement of the tune familiar to most of us as “Londonderry Air,” or as “Danny Boy,” but with a startling and deeply moving twist: like many of Clarke’s pieces with poetic or literary titles (Morpheus, or Passacaglia on an Old English Tune, for example), it encrypts a passionate back-story. The Gems edition lays all this out, while explaining the piece’s fascinating background and performance-history.

Through July 31, customers who buy the piece with at least one other title will be offered a free PDF download as soon as their order ships. Either way, you won’t be sorry: it’s absolutely gorgeous; it’s almost infinitely useful in concert, either as a stand-alone or in various combinations with the other duets; and your audiences—like Clarke’s at the first known performance, in a high-school auditorium in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, back in the summer of 1918—will be “strong in their appreciation.”

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