A birthday present

Just in time for Clarke’s 134th birthday comes a truly fine account of her Sonata by our friends Mei-Chun Chen and Hsin-I Huang, whose performance of three of Clarke’s songs, in Chen’s transcriptions, we told you about the other day. Everything about their take on the Sonata is special, from the passionate urgency of the opening gesture…

…to the hint of burnished steel in the scherzo…

…to the grave, almost reverent, solemnity of the slow movement, and the extreme tension driving the transition to the finale, which makes you wonder if Clarke didn’t have the comparable moment in Beethoven’s Fifth at least faintly in mind:

The other thing that cries out for comment is the platform-manner on view here. Clarke was an accomplished stage-animal—she stood nearly six feet tall in her prime and, as one observer noted, “she strode onstage like a goddess”—so I think she would have appreciated the exquisite purposive control that lies behind every gesture in this performance. The bowed head at the beginning of the slow movement is eloquent. Even the page-turns are expressive.

Wherever Clarke is, we hope she’s smiling. Happy birthday, pal.

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