Roll over, Binnorie—it’s turning into a banner year for Midsummer Moon, which gains depth and stature with every hearing.

First, we had a mesmerizing performance by Sofia Yatsyuk and Suren Barry, still available in Pontiac Enchanté’s Virtual Concert Hall. Then came a new CD by the young German phenom Lucie Bartholomäi and her performance-partner Verena Louis. And now there’s a run of performances by David Perry and John Goodwin, at Wisconsin’s estimable Midsummer’s Music festival. All three will amply reward your attention.

We’ve talked about Yatsyuk and Berry’s performance before, and we still agree with ourselves: this is a fine performance, passionately committed, in the midst of an uncommonly interesting program that also features works by Bloch, Tailleferre, Fauré, and Smyth.

The Bartholomäi/Louis CD (here, here, and here) is remarkable for several reasons: the impressive command on display, from a very young performer; the quiet excellence of the program, which features compelling pieces by Farrenc, Beach, and Clara Schumann, in addition to Clarke’s Chinese Puzzle and Lullaby; and the extraordinarily high quality of the recording, which makes the piano an equal partner in the proceedings, thus reminding us how superb Clarke’s keyboard-writing is. Louis‘s work is worth the price of the disc, all by itself.

Perry and Goodwin are giving three performances: tomorrow, June 23, 2021, and Tuesday, June 29, both in Fish Creek; and July 1 in Egg Harbor—live and in person only, but if you’re anywhere near the Door Peninsula, this is the place to be. Details of the series here; tickets here. This, too, is a fascinating program, flanking Midsummer Moon with quintets by Clarke’s contemporaries Adela Maddison and Ernst von Dohnányi. As far as we know, Clarke and Maddison never crossed paths, but Clarke was famous far and wide for her playing of Dohnányi’s chamber music. His Quintet in C minor (which figures on the Midsummer’s Music program) was one of the hits of her first season in Hawaii in 1918-19 (see below), so much so that they had to repeat it the following year, with different personnel; and a rip-roaring performance of his Serenade, Op. 10, was the high-point—”a brilliantly written work, brilliantly played,” according to press-reports—of what turned out to be her final performance with the English Ensemble before she was trapped in the U.S. by the outbreak of war in 1939.

Philharmonic Society of Honolulu Quintet Concerts, announcement of repertoire
(middle column, just below photo of Clarke), Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 24, 1918.
This was the first chamber-music series ever given in The Islands, and only the second in the United States.

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.