Rebecca CLARKE (1886-1979)
THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN
June twilight. A Dream. The Cherry-Blossom Wand. The Cloths of Heaven.
Shy One. The Seal Man. Midsummer Moon. Down by the Salley Gardens.
Infant Joy. Lethe. Three English Songs for Voice and Violin.
The Tiger. Tears, God made a tree. Come, o come, my life's delight.
Greeting. The Donkey. Chinese Puzzle. Lullaby. Three Irish Country
Songs. Cradle Song. Eight O'Clock. A Psalm of David. The
Patricia Wright (soprano);
Jonathan Rees (violin); Kathron Sturrock
Guild GMCD7208 [DDD]
A lot of care and thought has gone into this rewarding disc. The long selection
of songs is punctuated by pieces for violin and piano, and the inclusion
of Three Irish Country Songs for voice and violin further adds to
the textural variety.
Clarke studied composition with Stanford (she was his first woman student).
There are 53 songs extant, and they span her long creative life. Her chosen
texts are literate in the extreme: Masefield, Yeats, Blake and Houseman head
the list. The settings are characterised by their poetic sensitivity: A
Dream is mistily evocative, its melody reminiscent of Britten. Similarly,
Shy One (Yeats) is the very epitome of Englishness. She is capable
of deep emotion, as in her sad but peaceful setting of Lethe (Edward
St Vincent Millay).
A Psalm of David finds her in dramatic mode, decidedly not over-reverential,
and The Tiger (Blake) is progressive in its harmonic orbit. The Three
English Songs for voice and violin work well as a group. They exude a
melancholy air, explained by the lack of a true bass. Of the pieces for violin
and piano, Midsummer Moon is simply lovely (capricious and yet evocative),
while Chinese Puzzle provides an amusing diversion.
Patricia Wright has just the right voice for this repertoire: light and clear.
The violinist Jonathan Rees is committed throughout his solos.
Enthusiastically recommended to anyone interested in exploring this repertoire.