Rebecca Clarke

published her viola sonata anonymously, only revealing her name when there was speculation that the Swiss Ernst Bloch had written it secretly to give himself two goes at winning the Coolidge Prize. Rather unfairly, the prize which had been tied between Bloch and Clarke when the competition was anonymous was then awarded to Clarke in case the tie or an outright victory by Clarke smacked of favouritism from Clarke’s friend, Coolidge.

The sonata has been compared to the music of Franck, Vaughan Williams and Ravel. I’d add Kodaly into the mix too.

Half-American and with a life spanning London, Hawaii and Detroit, Rebecca Clarke was far from conventional. Even the decision to sail to America in 1916 at the height of patriotic fever in the First World War can hardly have been easy.

As a violist herself, whose friends and chamber-music companions included Heifitz, Casales, Artur Schnabel and Myra Hess, I think we can also take it that she knew how to rock those strings. #newheroine

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