In August of 1942, the 19th Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music was underway in Berkeley, California. Over 30 composers from 13 nations were represented. All the composers were male–with one exception. On today's date in 1942, at the fifth Festival concert, the "Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale" for clarinet and viola written by Rebecca Clarke was premiered.
Clarke was born in Harrow, 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 program notes for the 1942 Festival, Clarke described her "Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale" as follows: "The whole thing is 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This work, and much of Clarke's other music, remained unpublished during her lifetime, but, over time, its quality and range increasingly came to light.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. Clarke died at her home in New York at the age of 93. In the year 2000, a Rebecca Clarke Society was founded in Massachusetts to help promote her music.