Judith Ingolfsson violin/viola
Vladimir Stoupel piano


These sonatas, and Clarke’s other works for Violin and Viola, have each been recorded a few times before by such companies as Naxos and Dutton, but to my knowledge this is the first time the three Sonatas have appeared on the same disc, and played by the same violinist/violist.

In truth, the one movement Sonata in G major (lasting almost twelve minutes) is an early work from about 1907, and although it conquers the Sonata principle perfectly, it has no especially outstanding features. So, it is the two major works that we must focus on.

First, we will consider the Violin Sonata in D major. This shows itself to be also an early work (also probably 1907-8) with a tunefully Brahmsian first movement, marked Allegro comodo, which is in textbook sonata form, followed by a more original, almost Celtic if I might call it that, Andante, and finally a perhaps Dvorakian Allegro. The piano writing is not subservient in this work and, although not fully herself, Clarke demonstrates her burgeoning talent in every bar. It is amazing to think that neither of these works were fully published until 2023.

But, with the Viola Sonata we move into a different territory. Now, I should state immediately something which I rarely admit in these columns, I LOVE this impassioned masterwork. The language is original and evocative. There are three movements with the first marked ‘Impetuoso’, the second a virtuoso scherzo, inspired it is said by Clarke’s visit in 1919 to Hawaii, where she heard the gamelan. The finale moves between a quietly luscious Adagio which at the start acts as a slow movement, and an Agitato. Old ideas are revisited before the whole work ends in the joyous major.

The influences to my ears are Vaughan Williams, Ravel and, I feel, Arnold Bax. It is worth adding that Lyrita recorded Raphael Wallfisch in the cello arrangement Clarke made at the same time. The success of these three works is attributable to the total understanding Clarke had of these string instruments, having been persuaded by her supportive teacher, Charles Stanford, to take up the viola, and later to become the first female professional in an orchestra under Sir Henry Wood, when women in orchestras were unknown.

The performance of the Viola work is quite captivating and probably the best I have come across. Ingolfsson and Stoupel really get to the heart of the music, and anyone purchasing this disc will not be disappointed.

Review by Gary Higginson