Rebecca Clarke is not well known nowadays because most of her music was not published and started being published only since 1998.
She was an English professional viola player and composer who
composed several works for viola, for herself or to play with
She wrote her memories where she talks about her difficult realtionship
with her father.
She was born in 1886, started to study violin at the Royal Academy of Music in London but stopped because her father withdrew her after a teacher proposed to marry her. Then she studied composition at the Royal College of Music in London, being one of the first female students of composition.
She did not complete her studies because her father banished her from home and cut all her funding. Since 1910, at 24, Rebecca had to support herself and did so by playing the viola in the Queen’s Hall orchestra, being again one of the first women in the professional orchestra.
A few years later she moved to the United States and started travelling
extensively, performing with her two brothers and later even doing a
world tour of the British colonies.
Hers must have been quite a difficult
life, being a woman and
a composer and a viola player at the beginning of the
20th century and when the viola was just starting to be
recognised as a solo instrument, thanks to the efforts of Lionel
Tertis. Rebecca Clarke
was also a viola student of Tertis's.
She spent her life between England and the United States and lived 93 years.
Being a woman didn't help Rebecca Clarke's career as a composer and
her works were not published during her lifetime. This probably
did not encourage her and contributed to the fact that she stopped
composing around 1940s.
She initially made a career as a viola player, playing in
orchestras, chamber music groups made of all women and as a soloist
also for BBC broadcasts, then become well known
as a composer thanks to her Viola
Sonata, after taking part in a competition in 1919, although her
work did not win.
She composed of good number of works, as you can see from the list below. Fortunately, more and more are being published now.
Some works are suitable for intermediate, advanced players while some others are easier, like the Shorter pieces.
Sonata for viola and piano