"Who was Rebecca Clarke? You’d be forgiven for asking. Today she’s largely forgotten. In her own opinion her only ‘one whiff of success’ was her Viola Sonata, which in 1919 won her joint first prize (with Ernest Bloch) at the International Chamber Music Competition. Yet she did so much more than that: she was the first female student of Charles Villiers Stanford to specialise only in composition; the author of about a hundred songs, choral pieces and chamber works, most of them still unpublished; an outstanding viola player; and one of the first women to be accepted into a professional orchestra.
Hers is an alluring compositional voice that works on many levels. There’s the dreaming, whimsical side, the uncompromising grasp of structure, the impressionistic fascination with image. Then there’s a quality that often pulls us up short: namely a fearless intensity. What she lacks is a strong sense of individuality; at points you wish the real Clarke would step forward, so closely does her musical language mirror Bridge’s, Ravel’s, Debussy’s.
Nonetheless, this portrait of her chamber works from Duo Rùnya is a welcome novelty. From the impetuous opening of the Viola Sonata, the Italian sisters Diana and Arianna Bonatesta never shy away from extremes – but nor do they underestimate the work’s subtlety. They relish the dreamy lyricism in the first movement, the delicacy of the elfish Scherzo. Most of all they relish the sense of journey, the tautness of Clarke’s musical argument. Just occasionally, it’s too much of a scramble: Diana’s viola-playing lacks the effortlessness of, say, Tabea Zimmermann’s or the gloss factor of Philip Dukes’s. Where she triumphs over Dukes, though, is in her imaginative range.
It’s a quality that pays off in the gem-like shorter pieces, where she manages to crystallise every character: the dreaminess of the Lullaby and the exoticism of the Chinese Puzzle, underlined by her sister’s translucent touch. Throughout, both performers are amazingly light on their feet, but I sense that they’re most at home in music of greater scope and depth.Morpheus, inspired by the Greek god of dreams, is strikingly Debussian, whileDumka draws on the Slavic tradition, exploited, most famously, by Dvořák. On the surface, then, quite different, but both are intensely elegiac – a fitting closing statement from a composer who felt compelled to bill some of her work under a man’s name, and found that it indeed sold better than under her own."

Hannah Nepil
***** 5 Star
"Inattendu, inspirant, le premier album des jeunes sœurs italiennes bouscule la routine ≪ têtes d'affiches et grands classiques ≫ ! La synergie de leurs talents donne un vrai sens au mot ≪duo≫.
Moins conquérantes et concertantes dans la sonate pour alto qu'Adrien La Marca et Thomas Hoppe (La Dolce Vita, Diapason découverte), en marge du romantisme exacerbé de Paul Coletti et Leslie Howard (Hyperion), elles cultivent plus d'affinités avec la force tranquille de Tabea Zimmermann et Kirill Gerstein (Myrios), mais s'en distinguent par un stule moins intimiste.
Leur album a l'originalité de joindre à la sonate, ainsi devenue un classique de la littérature pour alto, des compléments tout à l'honneur de Rebecca Clarke.
Son style évolue dans une tradition classique bien ancrée (forme sonate, jeux de contrepoint, sensation trés tonale) et vaut par ses reliefs impressionnistes (fluctuations de couleurs évocatrices et de tempos, clins d'œeil modaux, quelques pentatonismes...).
Lés réminiscences de folk songs britanniques se coulent sans hiatus dans un élan au romantisme assumé (lyrisme profond, chromatismes, retours cycliques des éléments).
Cette écriture brillante, qui a fait mouche dans les colours de composition internationaux, s'est trouvée sévérement muselée à son époque par un contexte musical sexiste - contexte résumé le mois dernier par Jean-Charles Hoffelé, qui faisait de Clarke son ≪Illustre inconnu(e)≫.
Altiste de tour premier plan (protègée de Lionel Tertis), elle explore dans ses œuvres la multiplicité des effets et atmosphères possibles à l'instrument.
Nous décrouvrons, après la magistrale Sonate pour alto (1919), sept pièces brèves (écrites entre 1909 et 1944) qui n'ont rien d'anectotique. L'audieteur se laisse volontiers porter et envelopper par la narration de cette musique, à la fois familière et dépaysante. Aucun détail n'échappe aus sœurs Bonatesta, et tout coule de source ; le piano d'Arianna colore la partition et sublime l'alto poète de Diana. Refermant l'album, la délicieuse Dumka (1941) - entre danse populaire désuète et chant mélancolique aux airs slaves - nous laisse sur un (seul) regret : pourquoi ce répertoire restet-il encore si rare, en studios comme à la scène ?"

Claire Wyniecky

BBC Music Magazine (May 2016)
"This is a volatile, passionately committed performance, the ebb and flow of
energies managed with instinctive fluency...Bonatesta relishes the marvellous range
of timbres so expertly written in to the score".
Reviewed on Mon 04 Jul, 2016–Andrew Achenbach
"The Viola Sonata by Harrow-born Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) deserves immediate
investigation. Cast in three movements, it's a delectable, tightly organised creation,
full of first-rate invention and slumbering bardic power.
Composed in 1919 and premiered that same year to considerable acclaim at Elizabeth Sprague
Coolidge's Berkshire Chamber Music Festival in Massachusetts, the Viola Sonata by Harrow-
born Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) deserves immediate investigation. Cast in three movements, it's
a delectable, tightly organised creation, full of first-rate invention and slumbering bardic power;
indeed, I sense a strong stylistic and emotional kinship with two other near-contemporaneous
masterpieces for the same instrumental combination, namely Ernest Bloch's Suite and Bax's Viola
Sonata. Duo Rùnya comprises Italian sisters Diana and Arianna Bonatesta on viola and piano
respectively, who turn in a performance of ravishing beauty and quiet intensity, admirably
captured by the microphones. Other stand-out items in a most welcome programme devoted to
this gifted composer-violist include the aptly dreamy Morpheus, delicate Chinese Puzzle,
imposing Passacaglia on an Old English Tune and deeply touching Dumka (in which the
Bonatestas are joined by violinist Gabriele Campagna). All in all, something of a treat."

Reviews this time on the American Record Guide (July 2016) CLARKE: Viola Pieces
Duo Rùnya
Aevea 16008—68 minutes

Violist-composer Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) lived in that magical time and place: England in
the early 20th Century. Lionel Tertis was establishing the viola as an important solo instrument,
and Clarke even studied with him for a while. She wrote an important viola sonata in 1919, the
same year as Ernest Bloch’s Viola Suite and Paul Hindemith’s Viola Sonata Op. 11:4. It has an
imposing opening movement, an impish middle movement, and a dreamy finale.
The Lullaby of 1909-18 has a lovely, nostalgic mood of the type that only the English seem to
feel. The Passacaglia on an Old English Tune of 1940-41 is beautiful and majestic. My favorite of
the short pieces is the arrangement of the old Scottish border melody ‘I’ll Bid My Heart Be Still’
(1944). Morpheus (1917-18) is one of the better-known pieces here. The program concludes with
the Dumka for violin, viola, and piano, possibly from 1941. It sounds appropriately Slavonic.

The Strad
Clarke: Viola Sonata; Lullaby; Lullaby on an Ancient Irish Tune;
Untitled Piece; Chinese Puzzle; Passacaglia on an Old English Tune;
I’ll Bid My Heart Be Still; Morpheus; Dumka
Italian sisters enter ably into Rebecca Clarke’s English idiom
June 26, 2016
Duo Rùnya: Diana Bonatesta (viola) Arianna Bonatesta (piano) with Gabriele Campagna (violin)
Catalogue number
ÆVEA AE16008
"If you didn’t know that the first movement of Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata was marked
‘impetuoso’, it wouldn’t be hard to guess so when listening to this fiery reading by the Roman
sisters Diana and Arianna Bonatesta. The opening fanfares resonate excitingly at a swift tempo
and the movement’s various contrasting sections are nicely gauged. The scherzo has an engaging
lilt and the final movement is beautifully conceived, its recapitulation of the piece’s main motifs
clearly laid out. The recording is perfectly balanced, allowing for plenty of detail that often gets
obscured. (I was intrigued by an atypically less-than-unanimous allargando that comes along
twice over in parallel passages, strongly suggesting a clumsy piece of editing.)
The rest of the CD is taken up with Clarke’s shorter viola works. In the Passacaglia, Diana
Bonatesta employs a massive sound that suits the piece’s monumentality, while finding more
intimate nuances for the hypnotic tone poem Morpheus. The pieces of Scottish and Irish
inspiration have a beautiful simplicity of utterance, and the scurrilous spirit of Chinese Puzzle is
well caught. In the early Lullaby and Untitled Piece I did miss some of the old-fashioned charm
of someone like Lionel Tertis; but the Bonatesta sisters have entered convincingly into this very
English composer’s idiom. Italian violinist Gabriele Campagna joins them ably for the Dumka,
Clarke’s tuneful but slightly overlong exercise in faux-Bohemian folk music."

Carlos María Solare