What Violas are Good For...


Let's begin with a lullaby that you probably haven't heard before.  Rebecca Clarke's Lullaby No. 1, in fact.  In just three minutes, she conveys a piece so (if I may quote a YouTube viewer's comment) "hauntingly beautiful." It is sure to draw you in.

The Senior Recital.  Time to freak out!

As a Viola Performance Major in DePaul's School of Music, I have a Senior Recital to give before I graduate.  Meaning that, until Sunday, May 26th at 2PM, I will spend many waking hours thinking about, practicing for, stressing over, doing my share of procrastination, and putting the rest of my life on hold for my recital. 

This year, my teacher suggested putting a slight twist on the usual classical-viola-senior-degree recital.  We named a theme:  20th Century Women Composers.  All of the music for my recital is, you guessed it, composed by a woman during the 1900s:  Viola Sonata by Marion Bauer, Sonata Postorale by Lillian Fuchs, and Viola Sonata by Rebecca Clarke.  It's pretty exciting to put together a program with relatively new- and really gorgeous- music.Viola Power.  Made possible in part by Clarke, Fuchs, and Bauer.

(photo http://geargems.com/images/C/img259.jpgce.) 

Another fun part of my program has been researching the lives of Clarke, Fuchs, and Bauer.  Women as professional musicians are a surprisingly new phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Although women's participation in music is something we might take for granted, the playing field wasn't nearly as level a century ago.  Therefore, Clarke, Fuchs, and Bauer were largely overlooked as composers.  A darn shame, because their viola music rocks!

Now for a little trivia...

Rebecca Clarke was a total rock star.  Thrown out of her home after criticizing her father's extramarital affairs, young Clarke was forced to make her own living as a performer and composer in her native Great Britain.  She reached virtuoso status as a violist, and toured internationally.  A skeptical public long refused to believe “Rebecca” was truly the composer's name- for surely, a woman in 1919 couldn't have mastered such a work as her Viola Sonata!  Nevertheless, Clarke's sonata remains a must-play of the Viola repertoire.  

(Photo: http://www.last.fm/music/Rebecca+Clarke)


The American musical identity owes much to Marion Bauer's invaluable contributions.  She served in executive and supporting positions of just about every composer's organization in the United States, including teaching at NYU and Julliard.  In an epoch when women were discouraged from composing, particularly “unfeminine” music, Bauer's striking works were performed by New York Philharmonic. 

(Photo: en.wikipedia.org)

A celebrated soloist, teacher, and composer, Lillian Fuchs showed the world that the viola is suited for purposes other than hiding between the cello and violin.  That, in fact, the viola might be pleasant or even preferred as a solo instrument. With her impeccable technique and famously warm tone, Fuchs was hailed as “one of the best string players in America” by the New York Times in 1962. Her viola compositions gave a voice to the underdog of the string section.

(Photo: http://www.last.fm/music/Lillian+Fuchs)

See?  Viola's are more than "big violins."  We've got our rep, and we're not afraid to play it.  Off to the practice rooms for me, and for you, start listening to more viola music!
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