The Online Concert Hall of Pontiac Enchanté, the terrific chamber-music series in Luskville, Québec, that holds forth in a half-converted horse-barn—gorgeous music-room made out of the original hay-loft upstairs, horses still making their own kind of music downstairs—has graced us with back-to-back performances of Clarke’s Binnorie: A Ballad and Midsummer Moon, and you can’t get much farther apart than that: the former is a bone-chilling tale of envy, murder, and revenge, while the latter boasts one of the best nightingales in the business.

We’ve raved about Binnorie in these pages once before, but last Sunday’s performance by Meghan Lindsay and Carson Becke, adds a whole new level of terror, as well as unexpected flashes of tenderness and sad irony. The text, as Clarke set it, is here. To repeat out original warning, the piece is more than two Liebestods long, and at least five times as intense, so you will need to allow a minimum of sixteen minutes without interruption: close the door, shush your companions, turn off your devices, and allow ample time to recover from Lindsay’s overwhelming delivery of the final curse—like the composer, she does not hold back. Here it is. Remember: you have been warned.

Earlier today, Sofia Yatsyuk and Suren Barry did a lovely job with Midsummer Moon, at the 20:43 mark of a rich and deeply rewarding program that also features works by Bloch, Tailleferre, Fauré, and Smyth. Clarke and Bloch were good friends, and she always freely admitted how much she admired his music, and occasionally allowed as how she’d cribbed from him a time or two. What’s interesting here, though, is the contrast between them, highlighting Clarke’s tightness of focus, lightness of touch, economy of means, and absolute command of the listener’s attention.

Donation requested, and absolutely appropriate.

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.