Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) was an English composer and violist best known for her works featuring the viola (most well known was the viola sonata). Although she wrote few compositions, they were most recognized for their high skill level. Morpheus, written in 1917-1918, demonstrated her impressionistic writing style modeled after Claude Debussy and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The title name was taken after the Greek God of sleep and dreams.
Morpheus indeed sounded very much impressionalistic in its melodies and harmonies. It was not what I expect to hear in say Debussy's repertoire, however. The sound of this work distanced itself f
rom the late romantic period. While impressionistic, I heard the influences of Vaughan Williams with the character of this piece and the harmonies. While Debussy would stick with planing and open quartal harmonies, I think that this piece demonstrated more enriched harmonies with dissonances and the turn of the century sound. The use of extended technique was also a characteristic of Clarke. She knew the colors of the viola very well, and incorporated much of her skill into her compositions.
I decided to compare this work to Debussy's Nuages from Trios Nocturnes. The reason for this was that these pieces both use a somewhat abstract theme, and this features one of the few moments where Debussy features the viola (although briefly). The big differences were within the sound and harmonies. Debussy used much planing and quartal harmonies (as said before), and that was usually how I can identify a work by Debussy. The sound of Nuages also seemed to have long and spinning washes
of sound. In Morpheus, there was always a clear goal for where the sound should be going (and not to mention clear cadences).
I decided to chose this work over the viola sonata because the sonata was way too long and in depth to cover fully, and Morpheus was one of Clarke's lesser works but it was also more well known th an some of the other pieces she wrote for viola.
Clarke, Rebecca. "Rebecca Clarke_Morpheus" (video). Accessed April 29, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJXuzrXXjgw.
Curtis, Liane. "Clarke, Rebecca." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 29, 2014.
Debussy, Claude. "Claude Debussy Trios Nocturnes (Three Nocturnes)" (video). Accessed April 29, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtL_enacFn8.
Feverston, Tim. "Early 20th Century English Viola Composers: An Overview." November 26, 2012.