La Viola: Music for Viola and Piano by Women Composers of the 20th Century
I cannot recall exactly when I first heard the Clarke Sonata for viola and piano. The sonata is a standard viola work that is studied and performed so regularly that it becomes part of the very soundtrack of a viola student's journey through school, master classes, and recitals. While violists might be accustomed to the work and its composer Rebecca Clarke, audiences are still often surprised to learn that the composer of this remarkable sonata was a woman. Perhaps it is fitting that violists would be among the vanguard of musicians promoting works by women composers into their standard literature. Violists have long suffered from the perception that there is a paucity of literature written for our instrument. Notable soloists such as William Primrose and Paul Hindemith have championed the viola by commissioning, transcribing or writing new works to increase its repertoire. Others have turned to the past to unearth forgotten or neglected works to increase performance options. Violists who have explored music library stacks are often rewarded with great repertoire that has simply not yet entered the list of standards. This recording is the culmination of a research project inspired by the frequent audience surprise and curiosity at the notion of women composers as well as the wealth of excellent viola repertoire that is available but all too infrequently performed. The early 20th Century was a prolific time period for women composers due to changing societal norms, women's suffrage, and expanded educational opportunities. The World Wars pulled men onto the battlefield and created openings for women in many fields, including the arts. Women composers were given opportunities that they might not have otherwise received, including conservatory level music education, public performances, reviews and in many cases, publishing options. In searching for works to perform, the wealth of literature that deserves to be heard made narrowing the project to one CD impossible. To keep this recording to two discs, we focused on the compositions from this one time period. Despite these temporal constraints, numerous fine works were not included in these recordings. It is our hope that this project will bring to light new literature for viola while simultaneously showcasing works by women composers. Violist Hillary Herndon has earned a national reputation for her brilliant playing, insightful teaching and creative programming that draws from multiple disciplines. She has been heard on NPR and PBS and has collaborated with some of the world's foremost artists. Herndon's passion for integrating music with other interests has led to collaborations with actors, dancers, social workers and sociologists, the first trans-Atlantic master class, the use of high-tech scientific equipment to analyze bow strokes, and performances reaching beyond the concert hall to venues such as the American Museum of Science and Energy and city book fairs. She is dedicated to expanding the repertoire for viola through research, performance and advocacy of little known works, often staging recitals that feature repertoire from lesser-known composers alongside standard viola repertoire of their contemporaries. In addition to her chamber and solo performances, Hillary Herndon has acted as Principal Violist of the New World, Colorado Springs, Eastman and Juilliard Symphony Orchestras under the direction of reputable conductors, including Michael Tilson-Thomas, Seiji Ozawa, Neeme Jarvi, Yuri Temirkanov, James Levine and Sir Roger Norrington. She has participated in international music festivals, including Tanglewood, Interlochen, Heidelberg Scholssfestspiele and the National Repertory Orchestra.