Clarke does “The Grand Tour”—again (Part One)

Europe is putting on a de-facto Rebecca Clarke Festival, starting in August 2020 and extending well into 2021—and much of it focuses on some of the less-familiar items in the Clarke repertoire, or presents fixtures in new guises. Here are a few upcoming items of exceptional interest:

Streaming August 7, 2020, at 18:00 Central European Summer Time (check here for your local equivalent): A rare performance of Clarke’s Sonata in her own alternative version for cello, along with Ravel’s Kaddisch, Fauré’s Élégie, and the Debussy cello sonata, in a free online recital by Francesco Dillon and Gioia Giusti, from this year’s Musica sulle Apuane festival—an event that should be as moving as it is spectacular. The festival takes place in one of the most staggering physical sites in the world—the Apuan Alps, a UNESCO Global Geopark in northwestern Tuscany—and this particular program will be given in the open air, at the hilltop Sacrario di Sant’Anna di Stazzema, where the victims of one of the most horrific civilian massacres of World War II are memorialized. The Ravel and Fauré pieces—and perhaps the slow-movement of the Clarke—acknowledge the massacre’s anniversary, which falls later in the week.

August 13: The Katrina Chamber Music Festival, which boasts another spectacular location—the Åland Islands, midway between Stockholm and Helsinki—celebrates various Twenties with a fascinating program featuring Clarke’s Trio (1921), alongside songs by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1820s), a Greek melody by Gurdzjeff, Pedro Laurenz’s Berreti (arranged by Astor Piazzola), and Amy Beach’s String Quartet Op. 89 (all 1920s), and Terry Riley’s Tango Ladeado (2020). The players in the Clarke are Cecilia Zilliacus, Kati Raitinen, and Anna Laakso.

August 18: Piano Salon Christophori, the coolest concert-venue in Berlin, presents an all-Clarke recital by Anna Krzyżak (viola), Ignacy Siarkowski (clarinet), and Aleksandra Czerniecka (piano), including the Sonata, I’ll Bid My Heart Be Still, and Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale in their original instrumentations, along with Dumka and the viola Lullaby in Siarkowski’s arrangements with clarinet. Clarke was a copious self-arranger, so my guess is that she would have been quite pleased by all this, especially if it allowed her to assess Dumka‘s klezmer-worthiness. (And don’t take my word for the awesome coolness of the venue—check out this and this and this.)

August 25: Spain’s venerable Festival Internacional de Santander presents the Ensemble Instrumental de Cantabria (ENSEIC) in a tantalizing program called “Espuma de luz y sombra (Del dolor y la esperanza),” in which the opening movement of Clarke’s Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale, for clarinet and viola, falls somewhere between pain and hope, along with works by Purcell, Turina, Britten, Sanz Vélez, Shostakovich, Anónimo (s. XVI), Villa-Lobos, Vásquez, Falla, and Elgar (arr. Turina). “Espuma” means froth, or foam, and you might be deeply puzzled by what a “foam of light and shadow” might sound like, unless you’re a high-test food-maven and catch the reference to one of the great Catalonian chef Ferran Adrià’s most distinctive inventions—an almost weightless combination of flavored custard and whipped cream meant to “provoke, surprise, and delight the diner.” Should be quite an evening.

September 4: Nimrod Guez and Bernd Glemser place Clarke’s Sonata in broad historical context during this year’s Chamber Music Week at the Evangelisches Seminar Maulbronn, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where the likes of Kepler, Hölderlin, Mörike, and Hesse have been going to school since 1556, and where Glemser is Artist in Residence. Maulbronn Kammermusikwoche is one of those world-class events that wears its eminence lightly—exactly the kind of thing Clarke rejoiced in—so she might have been doubly pleased to figure with Bach, Brahms, and Shostakovich in the festival’s first-ever viola program.

September 12: Denmark’s Aarhuskammermusikfestival offers an evening of “English Impressionists,” featuring Clarke’s June Twilight and The Cloths of Heaven, sung by mezzo-soprano Kirsten Voss Petersen, and the Sonata, played by Daniel Eklund, all with Oscar Micaelsson as pianist. The program also includes Bridge’s cello sonata and songs with viola and piano, and Bax’s Elegiac Trio. The performers—all recent graduates of the Royal Danish Academy, Copenhagen—are exactly the kind of young professionals Clarke delighted in and fostered. With advocates like these, surely, her future is in good hands.

More coming. Stay tuned.

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