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Bridge: Piano Sonata, Pensées Fugitives, Etc / Ashley Wass


Release Date: 05/29/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557921   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRIDGE Piano Sonata. Lament for Catherine. Improvisations for Piano Left Hand. Sketches. Moderato. Pensées fugitives I. Scherzettino Ashley Wass (pn) NAXOS 8.557921 (67: 49)


Ashley Wass’s Bax recordings on the Naxos label have been almost universally welcomed (and rightly so). The present disc is actually the second volume of piano music by Frank Bridge on this enterprising label. In taking on the Piano Sonata, Wass also takes on Mark Bebbington on Somm, but his playing Read more is of such strength that in reality one need not look elsewhere.


There is much that is granitic about the first movement of the sonata (composed between 1921 and 1924). This is music of huge contrasts and of harmonic ambiguities. Wass has no problems with either end of the expressive scale, projecting the more forceful passages with real power and the more intimate ones with real emotional maturity. His playing is fluent, and he possesses a right leg that is not overly glued to the sustaining pedal, to his credit. More, he can project the sense of vastness that characterizes the first movement well. The foreboding undercurrents of this quarter-hour movement are a musical outcome, perhaps, of the revulsion the composer felt to the First World War. Wass does not hide from the fact that this is fundamentally unsettling music, even imparting a late Lisztian mystic slant to the closing pages. The second movement, marked Andante ben moderato , begins with a real pianissimo (balance levels are such that it registers as such without one having to sprint to the volume button to hear it). Here the music revels in its own twilight, occasionally glinting (the passages around the five-minute mark) before the trials and tribulations return in the form of the troubled finale. Technical considerations really do take the back seat—Wass instead grips our attention by leading us through this dark thicket. At 35 minutes, this sonata is a major undertaking, and Wass emerges triumphant. The atmospheres he conjures up in the slow movement linger in the memory long after the music has stopped. Considering the overall strife of the sonata, by the way, it seems surprising that Naxos has chosen such a carefree painting to adorn the front cover of the disc ( The Little Faun by Charles Simms).


The Lament for Catherine was designed as a memorial for a casualty of the sinking of the Lusitania . Apparently it was composed within the space of a single day (June 14, 1915). Marked Adagio, con molto espressione , it seems entirely apposite after the sonata, almost like a brief, five-minute Requiem (the string orchestra version of this piece has attained somewhat greater currency). Wass gives it a doleful yet somehow affectionate reading. Dating from only three years later, the Three Improvisations was written for Douglas Fox, who had lost his right hand in the War. Two out of the three improvisations continue the mood of mourning; only the third and briefest of the set, called “A Revel,” really lets in any light at all.


The Three Sketches of 1906 are titled “April,” “Rosemary,” and “Valse capricieuse,” respectively. Andrew Burn, in his excellent liner notes, refers to them as “superior examples of Edwardian salon character pieces,” and I really cannot improve on this description. Wass plays with great warmth without for a second descending into schmalz . “Rosemary” is the highlight, exquisitely fragranced; the final piece is pure nostalgia.


Finally, three small pieces from 1902–03 round off the disc. The Moderato is rather workaday as a piece of music, while the Andante moderato is atmospheric in its loneliness. A nice idea to finish with a quicker work, the Scherzettino , Bridge’s answer to Mendelssohn. Again, it is superbly played.


Michael Ponder’s recording, made at Saint George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, U.K., is admirably clear. It is close, but not claustrophobically so, and given the intensity of much of the sonata and the dark mood of other pieces on this disc, this makes a lot of sense.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Piano by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921-24; England 
Venue:  St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Brist 
Length: 34 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (09/07/2005 - 09/09/2005)
Composition written: England (1921 - 1924). 
2.
Lament, H 117 by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; England 
Venue:  St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Brist 
Length: 4 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (09/07/2005 - 09/09/2005) 
3.
Improvisations (3) for Piano left hand, H 134 by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
Venue:  St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Brist 
Length: 8 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (09/07/2005 - 09/09/2005) 
4.
Sketches (3) for Piano, H 68 by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; England 
Venue:  St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Brist 
Length: 8 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (09/07/2005 - 09/09/2005) 
5.
Moderato for Piano in E minor, H 29 by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; England 
Venue:  St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Brist 
Length: 2 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (09/07/2005 - 09/09/2005) 
6.
Scherzettino for Piano, H 20 by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902; England 
Venue:  St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Brist 
Length: 4 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (09/07/2005 - 09/09/2005) 
7.
Pensées fugitives for Piano no 1, H 16 by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902; England 
Venue:  St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Brist 
Length: 3 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: St. George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (09/07/2005 - 09/09/2005) 

Sound Samples

Piano Sonata: I. Lento ma non troppo - Andante ben moderato - Allegro energico
Piano Sonata: II. Andante ben moderato
Piano Sonata: III. Lento - Allegro ma non troppo
Lament: " for Catherine"
3 Improvisations for the Left Hand: No. 1. At Dawn
3 Improvisations for the Left Hand: No. 2. A Vigil
3 Improvisations for the Left Hand: No. 3. A Revel
3 Sketches: No. 1. April
3 Sketches: No. 2. Rosemary
3 Sketches: No. 3. Valse capricieuse
Moderato
Pensees Fugitives: Pensees fugitives I
Scherzetto: Scherzettino

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