Judith Ingolfsson’s Focused Tone Brings Rebecca Clarke’s Sonatas for Violin, Viola & Piano to Life

The beguiling performance of the two violin sonatas is certain to bring these unfairly neglected works into a deserved place in the violin repertoire

By Miranda Wilson | From the May-June 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

The sound world of Rebecca Clarke’s viola sonata (1919) contains nods at English pastoralism, French Impressionism, and even the timbres and modes of Asian music. Clarke, a violist as well as a composer, brought her intimate knowledge of the instrument’s capacities to her composition; the result is arguably the best sonata in the viola repertoire.


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Rebecca-Clarke-Sonatas-for-Violin-Viola-and-Piano
Rebecca Clarke: Sonatas for Violin, Viola & Piano, Judith Ingolfsson, violin and viola; Vladimir Stoupel, piano (Oehms Classics)

It may surprise Clarke fans to learn that she also composed two sonatas for violin and piano. Until 2023, these two important works languished unpublished and unknown. Though they predate the viola sonata by a decade, their modal harmonies, unexpected key changes, and assertive character make them equal in importance. The first sonata falls into a traditional three-movement plan, but the single-movement second sonata is more forward looking. The ravishing neo-Baroque opening progresses into a fusion of ancient and modern styles that characterizes later Clarke works such as the Passacaglia on an Old English Tune (1944).

Viola Sonata: II. Vivace

Judith Ingolfsson’s clear, focused tone and sparing use of vibrato, together with Stoupel’s delicately nuanced pianism, create a refreshing contrast with some of the more florid recorded interpretations. Their beguiling performance of the two violin sonatas is certain to bring these unfairly neglected works into a deserved place in the violin repertoire.