Rebecca Clarke’s music will open Sunday’s concert by Concordia Chamber Players, which will take place at Trinity Episcopal Church in Solebury, outside New Hope, Pa. The concert will begin at 3 p.m.
Clarke originally studied violin, but switched to viola at the suggestion of her teacher, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. She enjoyed respectable successful as performer and even as composer. Her Viola Sonata tied for first place with a work of Ernest Bloch in a competition held by patron of the arts Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. That was in 1919.
Reflective of the attitudes of the time, there were some who found it hard to believe that the piece could have been written by a woman. It is one of the most assured viola sonatas in the repertoire.
However, because her music met so much resistance, and since Clarke herself was reticent about her worth, many of her pieces remain unpublished.
Members of Concordia will perform one of her loveliest creations, the “Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale” for viola and clarinet of 1941. Artistic director Michelle Djokic, who is a cellist, remarks that if she could play any other instrument, it would be the clarinet. She speaks with particularly high praise of Jose Franch-Ballester, who will be performing on Sunday’s concert. The violist, Toby Appel, knew Clarke personally.
“Surely there are a lot of other works that I could have used to highlight the clarinet,” Djokic says, “and much more popular works, perhaps. The Rebecca Clarke work is really quite a beautiful piece, in my opinion. Toby Appel was very close to Rebecca Clarke. It’s always wonderful to have an artist perform a work who actually knew the composer quite well. Toby will share some of his insights about Rebecca Clarke and the work before he plays it. I think Rebecca Clarke’s music doesn’t get played enough. I really think she was quite passionate in her music.”
Djokic’s affection for the clarinet also finds expression in her inclusion of Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio in E-flat Major, K. 498. The work, scored for clarinet, viola and piano, takes its name from a venue for playing skittles, essentially a bowling alley. Mozart wrote the piece in 1786, while he was actually playing skittles.
The program will conclude with the Sextet in C Major for violin, viola, cello, clarinet, horn and piano, by Hungarian master Ernst von Dohnányi. Dohnányi directed the Budapest Academy and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, in which capacity he championed music by his notable contemporaries, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. However, his own music often seems to have one foot in the world of Brahms.
The concert will also feature the talents of pianist Orion Weiss, horn player Julie Landsman and violinist Carmit Zori. Musicians in the series converge on bucolic Bucks County from New York City and beyond. Djokic, a Juilliard graduate and a former New Hope resident, currently makes her home in San Francisco. She founded Concordia, as the New Hope Chamber Players, in 1997.
Concordia concerts are always distinguished by the inclusion of seldom-heard, but highly worthwhile chamber music. A program on Feb. 23 will juxtapose the Suite for Piano Left-Hand, 2 Violins and Cello by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a composer who later eluded the Nazis by settling in Hollywood to write film scores for Errol Flynn swashbucklers, with a string quartet by his teacher, Alexander Zemlinsky.
On April 27, the ensemble will present an all-Czech program, featuring Leo Janáèek’s “Pohádka” (or “Fairy Tale”), Bohuslav Martinu’s String Trio No. 2, and Antonin Dvorák’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in D Major.
Corcordia’s annual gala will take place on Jan. 10 at Cradle Valley Farm in Solebury. This year’s theme is “From Buenos Aires with Love.” Four masters in their field — violinist Nick Danielson, pianist Fernando Otero, bandoneon player J.P. Jofre and bassist Pablo Aslan — will provide idiomatic performances of traditional tango, Astor Piazzolla’s “Nuevo Tango” and original works announced from the stage. The evening will include cocktails, appetizers and a meal inspired by the cuisine of Argentina.
“The gala in January has the most remarkable tango musicians,” Djokic enthuses. “I can’t believe how lucky I was to get these guys to be free on that gala night. These particular musicians have all either won a Grammy in the Latin Grammys or been nominated. It’s going to be a very exciting mix of music. Talk about heating it up on a cold winter’s night!”
Djokic will perform John Novacek’s “Sounding Piece,” with the composer at the piano, at a concert of the Brooklyn Chamber Music Society on Nov. 15. Djokic and Novacek presented the work on one of last season’s Concordia concerts. The Brooklyn program will also include works of Franz Schubert and Ernest Chausson. Djokic and Novacek will be joined by violinist Zori, who is artistic director of Brooklyn series. For more information, look online at brooklynchambermusicsociety.org.
Concordia Chamber Ensemble
Music by Rebecca Clarke, Mozart and Ernst von Dohnányi
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pa.
Admission: $25; (215) 297-5972 or concordiaplayers.org
Ross Amico, The Times of Trenton