Composers Datebook®

Rebecca Clarke

Composer's Datebook - Aug. 6, 2023


In 1942, the 19th Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music was held in Berkeley, California. Over 30 composers from 13 nations were represented. All of them were male­–with one exception. On today’s date, the Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale for clarinet and viola written by Rebecca Clarke was premiered at the Festival.

Clarke was born in England, in 1886, to an American father and a German mother. She grew up a British citizen, studied music in London, and became one of the U.K.’s first female professional orchestral violists. She was stranded in the United States at the outbreak of World War II and settled permanently in New York City.

In notes for the 1942 Festival, Clarke modestly described her Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale as (quote): “ … very unpretentious: a short, unassuming little prelude… The second movement should sound very spirited… The third movement, Pastorale, is rather melancholy and nostalgic…”

This work, and much of Clarke’s music, remained unpublished during her lifetime, but, over time, its quality and range increasingly came to light. When Clarke turned 90 in 1976, she was interviewed by the BBC, and seemed both gratified and bemused by all the renewed attention.

Music Played in Today's Program

Rebecca Clarke (1886 – 1979) Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale, Op. 11 Robert Plane, cl; Philip Dukes, vla. Naxos 8.557934

On This Day


  • 1904 - Austrian music critic and university professor Eduard Hanslick, champion of Brahms and enemy of Wagner, dies in Vienna, aged 78

  • 1970 - German-born American composer Ingolf Dahl, age 68, in Frutigen, Switzerland;


  • 1946 - American premiere of Britten: opera "Peter Grimes," at Berkshire Music Center (Tangelwood), with Leonard Bernstein conducting;

  • 1947 - Villa-Lobos: "Bachianas Brasileiras" No. 8, in Rome, conducted by the composer;

  • 1947 - Von Einem: opera "Dantons Tod" (The Death of Danton) at the Salzburg, Festival in Austria,with Ferenc Fricsay conducting;

  • 1966 - Henze: "Die Bassariden" (after Euripides' play "The Bacchae") at the Salzburg Festival in Austria;

  • 1967 - Piston: Clarinet Concerto, during the Fifth Congregation of the Arts at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire;

  • 1988 - Ned Rorem: “Bright Music” for flute, two violins, cello and piano, at Presbyterian Church, Bridgehampton (New York), by the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Associates;

  • 2000 - Joan Tower: "Big Sky" for piano trio, in LaJolla, Calif., at a SummerFest concert featuring Chee-Yun (violin), David Finckel (cello) and Wu Han (piano);


  • 1826 - At his parent's mansion outside Berlin, the 17-year-old German composer Felix Mendelssohn completes his overture to Shakespeare's comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" after reading the play the previous month; The first private performance (in a two-piano version) was given at the family mansion by Felix and his sister Fanny on November 19, 1826; The first public performance (in its orchestral version) was given in Stettlin on February 20, 1827, conducted by Carl Loewe; Mendelssohn returned to the play nearly two decades later after he had become court composer to the King of Prussia, creating a whole score of incidental music besides the overture, and himself conducted the concert premiere of the expanded incidental music in Berlin on November 14, 1842 in Berlin; The complete incidental music integrated into a staging of Shakespeare's play was performed at the Neue Palais at Potsdam on October 14, 1843.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®