The great American patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and composer Rebecca Clarke were very close friends and maintained regular correspondence for the last thirty-five years of Coolidge’s life.  In one of her letters to Coolidge, Clarke offered very flattering criticism of two of Coolidge’s own works—the string quartet and the oboe sonata, which Coolidge had sent to Clarke and her husband, James Friskin.  Of the oboe sonata, Clarke wrote:

     We are both much impressed at your having written such a work, and for myself I feel

    greatly encouraged, as it still gives me a few years to plan turning out a major work!

    James, while looking at it, was heard to say the name “Verdi” under his breath!  The only

    trouble is that I had the rhythm
going round

    and round in my head for hours afterwards!

Round and Round was inspired not only by the above rhythm, but also by Clarke’s reaction to it.  Taking Clarke’s last sentence into consideration, this energetic work presents obsessively Coolidge’s rhythm in various forms, often jumping from one idea to the next in a whirl of contrasting but interrelated musical moments.  After a moment of repose during which one full measure of Coolidge’s oboe sonata is quoted, the music bursts again into the energy of the opening and drives to a turbulent end, still fixated on the same rhythmic idea.

Instrumentation: violin, cello, and piano four hands

Duration: 7’30”

Year composed: 2010


Tracy Wu, violin

Clara Yang, cello

Makiko Hirata, piano

Jeewon Lee, piano

*Recorded live at the Coolidge Auditorium by the Music Division of the Library of Congress