COMPOSERS: Clarke,J York
ALBUM TITLE: Clarke • J York
WORKS: Clarke: Rhapsody; Cello Sonata (arr. from Viola Sonata by Clarke) ; Passacaglia On an Old English Tune; I’ll Bid My Heart Be Still; Epilogue; J York: Dialogue with Rebecca Clarke
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello), John York (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SRCD.354
Rebecca Clarke’s cello Rhapsody (1923), written after her successful Viola Sonata and Piano Trio, marks a decisive step forward. There’s a visionary grandeur to this substantial work, a sonata in all but name. In comparison to the restless modality of her Viola Sonata, it’s not only cast on a bigger canvas but is also harmonically more dissonant and ambiguous, and consequently has even greater expressive potential.
Until recently, it’s existed only in a hand-written photocopy: now that pianist John York has created a new edition (due out in 2017), I’ve no doubt we’ll be hearing it more often. While the first movement seems to pour forth in a single, passionate gesture, the finale explores a strange, sepulchral harmonic world. In between come inspired textural effects – like the quiet pattering pizzicato chords in the Adagio – and a mix of sassy élan and savage dynamism in the Allegro ritmico. This deeply committed reading outshines its forerunner (Dutton Vocalian, 1998).
I was intrigued by what’s described as ‘Sonata for cello (or viola) and piano’. In fact, it’s simply the Viola Sonata (1919), recast by the composer herself for her trio cellist, May Mukle. While Wallfisch gives the finest account on cello I’ve heard, Clarke wrote so idiomatically for her own instrument, no other will do. Wallfisch delivers a beautiful Adagio, and York voices every line with superb clarity and coherence, so crucial in this turbulent work. But glassy filigree figures in the Vivace need the viola’s lighter timbre, and speeds are inevitably – detrimentally – slow.
York’s arresting Dialogue reveals his intense identification with this enigmatic 20th-century composer.