Clarke, Rebecca (1886–1979)

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Clarke, Rebecca (1886–1979)

English composer who created over 58 songs and 20 instrumental or chamber works. Name variations: (pseudonym) Anthony Trent. Born in Harrow, England, on August 27, 1886; died in New York City on October 13, 1979; studied with Sir Frederick Bridge, Sir Charles Stanford, and Lionel Tetris, and at the Royal College of Music; married James Friskin (a pianist), in 1944.

For a number of years, Rebecca Clarke submitted her compositions under the name of Anthony Trent, reporting that publishers were more interested in modern compositions by someone presumed to be male. Despite this prejudice against women composers, she also composed under her own name. Trained at the Royal College of Music in London, Clarke was a concert violinist as well as a composer, influenced by Dame Ethel Smyth as well as Sir Edgar Elgar, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and Gustav Holst. She founded an all women's piano quartet, the English Ensemble, in 1913. In 1919, she won second place for her viola sonata at the Berkshire Festival in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, established by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge . Clarke won the second prize again in the same competition in 1921. Her work was widely published by Winthrop Rogers and the Oxford University Press in Great Britain and by G. Schirmer in the United States. She was particularly known for her chamber music, which favored English musical themes and texts by William Shakespeare, William Butler Yeats, and William Blake. In August 1942, Clarke was the only woman among more than 30 composers present at the International Society for Contemporary Music in San Francisco where her Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale for clarinet and viola was enthusiastically received. In addition to composing, Clarke toured widely as a concert violinist with her husband, pianist James Friskin. In recent years, several of her important chamber music compositions, including the Piano Trio, the Viola Sonata, and the Prelude for Viola and Clarinet, have been recorded.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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