British Viola Repertoire of the First Half of the Twentieth Century
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The aim of this dissertation performance project has been to obtain a familiarity with the sound and emotional palette of the British viola repertoire of 1900-1950. The music of this time and place has a uniquely soulful, pensive, and internally wrought emotional quality which translates perfectly into the character of the viola. The first recital consisted of music written for the world’s then-preeminent viola virtuoso, Lionel Tertis (1876-1975). This program included Vaughan Williams’ Romance for Viola and Piano, Frank Bridge’s Two Pieces for Viola and Piano (Pensiero and Allegro Appassionato), Arnold Bax’s Sonata for Viola and Piano, and finally York Bowen’s thrilling Sonata No. 1 in C Minor. The second recital contained the chronologically ordered complete works for viola and piano of Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979). Thanks to the monumental sonata of 1919, Rebecca Clarke is thought of by many as a composer, but she was most certainly a remarkable violist as well, making her one of the last performer-composers to continue the legacy of the great composer-virtuosi of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Clarke was at the very forefront of a time when female composers were beginning to be accepted socially. She is removed by only fifty or so years from the time of Clara Schumann, another great female artist, but is perhaps more remarkable in that her instrument of choice was not as widely accepted as a solo instrument at that time. The final recital consisted of several works chosen to showcase the viola’s unique relationship with British composers over time. The first half of the recital featured three under-celebrated works by Arnold Bax: Concert Piece, Trio in One Movement, and Legend. The second half of this program reached back into the late Renaissance with a pair of pieces by John Dowland arranged for violin and viola, then finishing with Benjamin Britten’s Lachrymae of 1950, which was inspired by these two works.