Faber & Faber just announced their acquisition of two books by Leah Broad—the “dazzling young musicologist” at Christ Church, Oxford, whose work you’ve read about in these pages several times before—the first of which is Quartet, a group biography of four “trailblazing” women who “changed British music”: Ethel Smyth, Dorothy Howell, Doreen Carwithen, and (you guessed it) Rebecca Clarke.
Word of the deal broke only day-before-yesterday—you can read The Bookseller’s breathless take on it here—and Quartet won’t be published until sometime in 2023, COVID permitting. Still…
We hasten to bring it to your attention for one very important reason: Quartet will be the first extended publication on Clarke and her music since Daniela Kohnen’s pioneering monograph, first published in 1999 (see our “Learn More” page). Dr. Broad’s book is written for a wider audience, but with equal rigor, and, of course, the range of documentary sources available to scholars—especially contemporaneous journals, trade-magazines, and the all-important concert-advertising—is exponentially larger now than it was twenty years ago. Quartet will set Clarke in the context of the professional world where she actually lived, breathed, worked, and drew her own life’s meaning.
So stick a pin in this, and we’ll keep you posted as things develop. In the meantime, check out Dr. Broad’s article on Ethel Smyth, just published in The Guardian, for a sample of her fair-minded, even-handed, thoroughly lively style, and for evidence that she is refreshingly willing to admit that great icons can be less than they claim to be—or than we might want them to be—and still be fundamentally decent, real people who are interesting and exciting to know.