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Music for Viola and Piano by Women Composers of the 20th Century

Rebecca Clarke, Fernande Decruck, Lillian Fuchs, Pamela Harrison, Minna Keal, Luise Adolpha Le Beau, Marcelle Soulage


2-CD Set



"the quality of the compositions themselves, which is high...  American violist Hillary Herndon and pianist Wei-Chun Bernadette Lo approach [the Clarke Sonata] with due appreciation of its stature. Theirs is a fine performance... This excellently chosen selection will make an obvious appeal to the collector.”
Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International [July 2013]
“Here is one of those recording projects for which I live: an album of mostly unrecorded and unknown classical pieces by women composers, all of high quality. Most are in a late romantic style, yet all have features of interest… [Herndon gives] an extremely fine account of this excellent score [Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata]… [Herndon] is a committed, emotional performer who clearly loves these works. I was also quite taken by the well-phrased and occasionally evocative piano accompaniments of Lo, who is not only technically fluent but fully involved in the spirit of each work.”
Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare [May/June 2013]
“All of the music on this recording of music for viola and piano and for viola alone was written by women who lived and died in the 20th Century… everything is written to exploit the best qualities of the instrument… [Rebecca Clarke] understood many of the instrument’s most intimate secrets. She also understood the secrets of the piano, and one of the things that make this reading so enjoyable is Lo’s exceptional sensitivity to color and texture… [Herndon gives the Fuchs an] excellent reading…  [Luise Adolpha Le Beau] didn’t really understand the viola that well. These musicians and the recording engineer do a fine job working around the balance problems…  Soulage might have played the viola, because her solo sonata sounds very well on the instrument. There is a remarkable fugue at the end… [Fernande Decruck] wrote this gorgeous sonata in 1943 as a work for either alto saxophone or viola and piano… [Hillary Herndon and Wei-Chun Bernadette Lo] have done a great service to music lovers by making this recording, and they have done a great service to violists (who are always looking for good music to play) by seeking out these pieces and playing them so beautifully.”
Fine, American Record Guide [May/June 2013]
“Another enduring staple of the repertoire, Rebecca Clarke’s dramatic Sonata for Viola and Piano, provides the springboard for La Viola (MSR Classics), a two-CD collection by Hillary Herndon featuring 20th-century viola pieces composed by women. Alongside pianist Wei-Chun Bernadette Lo, Herndon works her way through attractive obscurities by Minna Keal, Marcelle Soulage, Luise Adolpha Le Beau and others—all of it lent appeal by Herndon’s sweetly soaring tone.”
Steve Smith, TimeOut New York [March 2013]
“Hillary is a gifted teacher and an excellent musician.”
Itzhak Perlman
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, Lionel Tertis 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, including Carol Wincenc, James VanDermark and Itzhak Perlman. Hillary’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 hightech 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 today’s most 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.

A committed teacher, Herndon has a thriving studio at the University of Tennessee and holds summer positions at both the Sewanee Summer Music Festival in Tennessee and the Round Top Festival Institute in Texas. She is the Director and Founder of the Annual UT Viola Celebration, an event that has involved hundreds of violists from across North America and is in demand for master classes. Herndon is a member of the American Viola Society Executive Board and has presented at the International Viola Congress and the American String Teacher Association Conference. She has been published in the journals of the American Viola Society and the American String Teacher Association.

Hillary Herndon received her Masters Degree from the Juilliard School where she studied with Heidi Castleman, Hsin-Yun Huang and Misha Amory while serving as a Teaching Assistant to Ms. Castleman. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with George Taylor and graduated with High Honors.

Taiwanese pianist Wei-Chun Bernadette Lo began piano lessons at the age of six, and was trained under a national program for gifted music students from the age of nine. In 1990, Lo came to the United States and attended the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Massachusetts, moving on to the Peabody Conservatory where she received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in piano performance under Robert McDonald and Ellen Mack. At the Conservatory, she also served as a teaching assistant in music theory and staff coach for the opera division. Lo continued her education at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana where she was awarded accompanying assistantship, and was often invited to perform chamber music with UI faculty, including numerous performances with her piano teacher Gustavo Romero. She received her Doctor of Musical Arts there in 2004.

Dr. Lo is a highly sought-after collaborative pianist and has also enjoyed a successful career as a freelance pianist. She has worked for studios of world renowned sopranos Carol Vaness, Cynthia Haymon and Martina Arroyo, and has performed with acclaimed musicians. Lo has also worked as a rehearsal pianist with such organizations as the Sugar Creek Festival, Opera Illinois and El Paso Opera. Recently, she was invited to serve as a collaborative artist for the Viola Celebration and the Tennessee Cello Workshop in Knoxville, the Orpheus Vocal Competition in Murfreesboro, and the 41st International French Horn Symposium in Illinois.

A frequent guest lecturer in her native country of Taiwan, including at the Taipei Municipal University of Education, Fu-Jen Catholic University and National Chia-Yi University, Dr. Lo was invited twice as adjudicator for the TSMC Young Artist Piano Competition in Hsin-Ju, Taiwan. She is currently on the faculty of Sewanee University in Tennessee and performs with her husband, Dr. Kevin Class as the Lo-Class piano duo.

BALLADE IN F MINOR for Viola and Piano (1929)
Andante con moto

SONATA for Solo Viola, Op.43 (1930)
Assez animé, dans le caractère d’une improvisation; Allegro moderato
Scherzo: Très vif
Largo expressivo
Fugue: Allegro moderato

SONATA for Viola and Piano (1943)
Dedicated to Marcel Mule
Très modéré, expressif
Noel: Andante
Fileuse: Légèrement animé
Nocturne et Rondel: Calme, très modéré, moderato

THREE PIECES for Viola and Piano, Op.26 (1881)
Nachtstück: Ruhig
Träumerei: Langsam
Polonaise: Schnell

SONATA for Viola and Piano (1946)
Vivace leggiero
Andante affetuoso

LAMENT for Viola and Piano (pub. 1963)
Lento cantabile e molto espressivo

LILLIAN FUCHS (1901-1995)
SONATA PASTORALE for Unaccompanied Viola (1953)
Fantasia: Maestoso; Allegro
Pastorale: Andante semplice; Allegro

REBECCA CLARKE (1886-1979)
SONATA for Viola and Piano (1919)
Impetuoso; poco agitato
Adagio; Allegro

MSR Classics
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