1886 - 1979
Rebecca Clarke was born in Harrow, England on August 27, 1886, to an American father and a mother of German descent. She studied the violin as a child and, beginning in 1902, with Hans Wessely at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She was accepted as the first female composition student of Sir Charles Stanford at the Royal College of Music in 1907. As a violist, Clarke was a member of various all-female chamber groups, including the Norah Clench Quartet and the English Ensemble. She also performed as a soloist, and was one of only six women in the Queen's Hall Orchestra before World War I. Clarke first visited the United States in 1916; in 1919 her viola sonata won second prize in the competition established by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge at the Berkshire Festival. For this competition all entries were submitted under pseudonyms; Clarke used the name "Anthony Trent." When her Sonata for Viola and Piano tied for first place with Ernst Bloch's Viola Suite, Mrs. Coolidge cast the deciding vote that awarded it second place. She wrote to Clarke, "You should have seen the faces of the jury when it was revealed the composer was a woman!" Clarke's Piano Trio also took the second prize in the 1921 competition, after which Coolidge commissioned her to write the Rhapsody for Cello and Piano for the 1923 Pittsfield Festival in MA. In the 1930s Clarke divided her time between England and the United States, a period of little composition. She was on tour in the United States when World War II began and was advised to remain in the United States. In 1944 she married James Friskin, who had been a fellow student at the Royal College of Music in London and was then a leading piano teacher at The Juilliard School of Music in New York. Later in her life Clarke established the May Muklé (1880-1963) Prize for cellists at the Royal Academy in memory of the cellist with whom she had toured and performed chamber music while in England. Funding for the prize came from the sale of Clarke's Stradivarius violin, bequeathed to her by her former harmony teacher, Percy Miles. For further information, visit Rebecca Clarke.