Reminiscences

J.S. Bach Concerto for violin and viola

An arrangement by “Friend Of Clarke,”
Charles Chandler

Charles Chandler, a retired violist now living in Lexington, MA., remembers his meetings with Rebecca Clarke and her husband James Friskin, and dedicates his Bach arrangement to Clarke’s memory.

Chandler writes: “Back in the late 1950s, my wife, who was a very good pianist, was studying privately with James Friskin. We had them both over to our home in Princeton, NJ, a few times. I had recently acquired Clarke’s “Passacaglia” for viola and piano and was getting acquainted with it. My wife and I played it for them, and Clarke helped us with a few ideas, for instance in bringing out the “ostinato” in all the pitch levels, not only the bass. That clarified the piece wonderfully! I never worked on the Viola Sonata, sorry to say. My meetings with Clarke and enjoyment of her music have led me to my interest in the Rebecca Clarke Society, Inc., and to offering this arrangement of the Bach Concerto for two violins so that a violist can perform the second violin part. We violists have to stick together, and I think Clarke would have approved of my arrangement. I’m glad that the Clarke Society is making my arrangement available to violists.” – Charles Chandler [email protected]

J.S. Bach’s Concerto for two violins was indeed a memorable work for Clarke, and one that she enjoyed playing on the violin (before she switched to the viola). In her (unpublished) memoir, “I had a father, too” she recalls a visit to Germany, where she stayed with relatives of her mother. This must have taken place around 1906: “I had brought my fiddle, so now we unearthed everything we could get hold of for two violins and piano. The Bach D minor concerto was of course our favorite; we played it again and again – a rather dangerous procedure for me, for the slow movement invariable stirred me to such a degree that, over-emotional as I was in those days, I was apt to fall slightly in love with any man, woman or child with whom I was playing it. … Here I was playing the fatal Bach Double Concerto with a young man who, though he had not at first seemed particularly attractive, was daily becoming so in my eyes.”