Forgotten Melodies CLARKE: Morpheus; STRUBE: Berceuse; Regrets; Sonata; FOOTE: Melody, op 44a; Sonata, op 78a Lauren Hodges, va; Jasmin Arakawa, p Centaur 3833- 53 minutes
“A fine program of music somewhat, little, and barely at all known. We violists have a much larger repertoire than we are given credit for, and most of the fault is our own in not recognizing it. Rebecca Clarke’s Morpheus, at least, isn’t unfamiliar; most violists will already know this more muted (literally!), softer elder sibling of the 1919 Sonata. But I imagine very few of us will have heard of Gustav Strube at all, and yet his pieces are the centerpiece of this program. The two short works are salon pieces of the sort that Strube was apparently known for writing - he was, among other things, conductor of the Boston Pops for 14 years - but the viola sonata is something else, a glowing three-movement work in the late-romantic style, American version, French-tinged subversion, from 1919. In this it shares a lot with its major discmate, [Arthur] Foote’s Sonata, originally for cello but reworked for viola also in 1919. The notes here conjecture that both works were destined for the Berkshire Festival Competition, where Louis Bailly was one of the judges. (Strube’s Sonata is dedicated to Bailly, who performed it in 1925.) The Foote was, indeed, lost altogether to the public until long after he died, and the 1919 viola version was found even later than that. 1919 does seem to be popping up a lot here, yes? The Clarke Sonata, also entered in the same competition (under the pseudonym “Anthony Trent”) lost to the Ernest Bloch Suite on Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge’s tie-breaking vote. The rivalry of Clarke and Bloch for the prize is well known; not so the likely presence of two other pieces as distinguished as these. There was a sort of outbreak of writing for the viola around this time (think of Hindemith’s Op. 11:4, also from 1919), and in the 20s Hindemith, together with Milhaud and others, got busy creating a new repertoire for the previously-neglected instrument, but the seeds were already everywhere in postwar America. The only other piece here is also Foote, the Melody Op. 44a, another violin original that suffers not at all from translation. The performances have a sort of sheen about them that I find very attractive; Lauren Hodges is a distinguished violist with a refined, mellow tone, and Jasmin Arakawa is her excellent partner.” - THOMSON This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of the American Record Guide, pp. 157-158.
CD Review by Henry Fogel REBECCA CLARKEMorpheus.STRUBE Viola Sonata. Berceuse. Regrets.FOOTEViola Sonata. Melody • Lauren Hodges (va); Jasmin Arakawa (pn) • CENTAUR 3833 (53:24)
Although everything on this collection, titled Forgotten Melodies, is attractive, it was Arthur Foote’s Sonata for Viola and Piano that really grabbed my attention. It began life as a sonata for cello and piano, composed somewhere between 1912 and 1918, and was later arranged for viola by Foote in 1919. Both this sonata and the brief Melody from 1899 show Foote’s high level of melodic inspiration. In addition to melodic freshness, these pieces exhibit superb craftsmanship and a theatrical sense of drama.
British composer Rebecca Clarke’s most recorded work is her Viola Sonata, one of the modern staples of the instrument’s repertoire, so it is no surprise that Morpheus sits so comfortably for viola and piano. The music begins quietly, reflecting the status of Morpheus in Greek mythology as the god of sleep and dreams, but Clarke finds urgency in the central portion of the piece. Gustav Strube (1867–1953) is a name new to me. He was born in Germany but came to the U.S. in 1890 to join the Boston Symphony Orchestra as a violinist; he also conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra. In 1913 Strube left Boston to teach music theory at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, ultimately becoming the founding music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a position he held from 1916 to 1930. Although German by training, Strube was also influenced by the French Impressionists, which is apparent in the three viola works performed here. Strube’s music is pleasant and well crafted, though lacking the more individual melodic profile that one finds in Foote’s music. Apparently this is the first commercial recording of the Foote and Strube sonatas.
Pursuing parallel careers as performer and teacher, Lauren Hodges is assistant professor of viola at the University of Florida. Besides a recent tour of China, her artist’s bio indicates a deep community commitment: “Passionate about promoting the viola and engaging with the community, she hosts an annual viola day at UF and serves as a board member-at-large for the American Viola Society.” Interestingly, her approach to teaching is very body-centered. “Dr. Hodges teaches students to use natural weight and leverage to produce a resonant sound free from excessive tension and pain, and she leads body awareness workshops.”
As a performer her tone is warm and rich. She and pianist Jasmin Arakawa (also on the faculty of the University of Florida) make appealing cases for everything on the disc. The recorded sound is fine; the piano is always present but doesn’t drown out the viola. Helpful program notes provided by David M. Bynog round out this lovely disc. Henry Fogel
This article originally appeared in Issue 44:6 (July/Aug 2021) of Fanfare Magazine.