Monday, May 14, 2007

World Premiere of 1919 Work for Viola and Orchestra

This makes me nostalgic for when I played the viola. . . . .

WORCESTER, MA --The Rebecca Clarke Society is proud to announce the premiere of the orchestrated version of the Viola Sonata by composer Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979). The performance will be Friday, June 8, at 7 p.m. in St. Paul's Cathedral, Worcester, and Massachusetts, as part of the St. Paul's Music Festival.

Peter Sulski, internationally acclaimed violist, will perform as soloist, with the Worcester Collegium lead by Ian Watson, the festival's artistic director.

The Rebecca Clarke Society commissioned Ruth Lomon, resident composer and scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, to orchestrate the sonata. Lomon is also composer-in-residence for the Boston Secession, a professional choral ensemble. She has received commissions from numerous organizations including the Massachusetts Council for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and New England Arts.

Rebecca Clarke, British by birth but living for many years in the U.S., composed a wide range of chamber works, songs and choral pieces, mostly in the 1910s and '20s. A violist herself, she composed the sonata in 1919 to enter a contest hosted by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, chamber music patron and founder of the Berkshire Music Festival. In later years Clarke referred to the piece as her "one little whiff of success" and it was her most performed composition during her lifetime. Submitted anonymously with 72 other works, Clarke's piece tied for first place with Ernest Bloch's submission – an unheard of achievement in 1919 for a "woman composer."

The orchestration of Clarke's sonata leaves the original viola solo part intact; the lush and passionate piano part has been trnasformed to exploit the range of orchestral colors. Patricia McCarty, one of the first violists to record the original version of the sonata, is enthusiastic about this new arrangement. "Complementing but not overwhelming the viola line, the impressionistic colors and textures of Ruth Lomon's orchestration of the Rebecca Clarke Sonata offer listeners an opportunity to hear this work on a grand scale," says McCarty, "making new friends for this work long beloved by viola players."

After eventually going out of print and disappearing from the concert stage, the sonata was rediscovered in 1976 through a radio broadcast (by WQXR in New York City) in honor of Clarke's 90th birthday. It has since become one of the most widely performed works to feature the viola, with more than 15 CD recordings.

The premiere performance will be held June 8 at 7 p.m. in St. Paul's Cathedral, 38 High St., Worcester, MA. Tickets are available by calling 508-754-9822, or can be purchased at the door. Adults $20, Seniors $15, Children $10. See for more information. Also on the program of the June 8 concert are Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony, Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves; and W.A. Mozart's Divertimento in F.

Any questions may be directed to Liane Curtis, president of the Rebecca Clarke Society at or via voice mail at 617-776-1809 (leave message).

The Rebecca Clarke Society ( was founded in 2000 as a non-profit organization ( federally recognized 501 (C) 3 status) to promote and honor the music and legacy of the British-American composer Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979).

No comments: