March will be chock-a-block with superb new Clarke recordings, one of them more than 30 years in the making.

LAWO Classics leads off with The Artist’s Secret, an absolutely fascinating recital by mezzo Bettina Smith and pianist Jan Willem Nelleke that features an unusual selection of Clarke’s songs—Infant Joy, June Twilight, and Eight O’Clock—along with pieces by Anna Cramer, Henriëtte Bosmans, Borghild Holmsen, Cecile Chaminade, Marguerite Canal, Poldowski, Lili Boulanger, and Luise Greger. The three Clarke pieces form a well-nigh perfect microcosm of her vocal-solo writing, with an unexpected but absolutely convincing bit of Sprechstimme in Eight O’Clock. The whole program is rich and challenging, and if you haven’t caught up with Poldowski or Bosmans, what’s keeping you? European release and worldwide download is set for February 26, with the CD available in the Western Hemisphere on April 9.

On March 12, Divine Art releases an album of twentieth- and twenty-first-century pieces for clarinet and strings, performed by the British chamber-ensemble Gemini and its director, clarinetist Ian Mitchell. The story of how this project progressed since Ian discovered Clarke’s Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale in 1989 is best told by Ian himself, in the album’s lavish and highly entertaining booklet. Suffice it to say that this performance of the piece, which also features violist Yuko Inoue on a thrillingly equal basis, is one of the best ever. As an added bonus, the booklet includes the first accurate transcription of Clarke’s handwritten de-facto program-note—an important contribution to the literature, since this was one of the few times in Clarke’s life when she explained so much as a note of her music. Readers who have been searching in vain for that “long fugato section” in the Allegro will be relieved to learn that Clarke actually wrote “tiny”—crystal-clear, right down to the crossed T and the dotted I. You can pre-order here or here.

On March 19, King’s College, Cambridge, releases Proud Songsters, a survey of English solo song performed by a knockout roster of singers (Michael Chance, Tim Mead, Lawrence Zazzo, Ruairi Bowen, James Gilchrist, Andrew Staples, Gerald Finley, Ashley Riches, and Mark Stone) and Simon Lepper, one of the world’s preëminent collaborative pianists—all of whom are King’s alumni. For Clarke aficionados, the pièce de résistance is Gilchrist’s tender, propulsive, emotionally specific account of The Seal Man, nearly half-a-minute faster than his previous recording, and hair-raisingly the better for it. With Britten’s Down by the Salley Gardens (Mead), Warlock’s Sleep (Stone), and Iain Bell’s riff on “Come away, death” (Zazzo), there are interesting comparisons to be made with Clarke’s settings of the same texts, for solo voice, vocal duet, and chorus, respectively. Stephen Banfield’s booklet-essay is a useful corrective for anyone who suffers from any lingering delusion that nineteenth- or early twentieth-century English song was some sort of hothouse-flower tended by sad maidens in darkened parlors with doors tight-shut, rather than what it was—a massive industry with a large, active market. You can pre-order here or here.

And more on the way. Clear your shelves.

Princes Street Gardens Attractions | Edinburgh Tourist

The Edinburgh International Festival—like everything else this year, largely shuttered due to COVID-19—offers a brilliant workaround: a series of specially-filmed recitals by leading soloists and chamber ensembles from around the world, beamed out from The Hub on Castlehill on the Festival’s YouTube channel, with new performances every Monday to Friday from August 10 through August 28, at 1:00 p.m. British Summer Time (check here for your local equivalent).

Clarke was a frequent musical visitor to Edinburgh, and a welcome one at that. On this pass, her Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale, for clarinet and viola, figures as the centerpiece of a program that also includes Glazunov’s Reverie Orientale and Weber’s Clarinet Quintet. Glazunov was a somewhat improbable enthusiasm of Clarke’s composition teacher, Sir Charles Stanford, so here’s a rare opportunity to hear the two of them side by side. The concert, by members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, begins streaming on August 14.

The series as a whole looks terrific, with appearances by Angela Hewitt, Malcolm Martineau, Mark Padmore, Paul Lewis, and other notables, and a substantial array of works by women, including Nadia Boulanger, Sally Beamish, Judith Weir, Anna Meredith, Isabella Leonarda, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Pauline Viardot, and Clara Schumann. Padmore and Lewis’s recital, on August 26, pairs songs by Schumann with a little something called Dichterliebe, which seems to have been written by somebody with whom she shares a surname—husband? brother? cousin? Whatever.

A comprehensive schedule and roster are here.

[Update: The concert was absolutely glorious, including the finest performance of Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale that you are ever likely to hear. The complete program is here and here.]

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.