Notes and Editorial Reviews
Phantasy Piano Quartet
in f#. Cello Sonata.
An Irish Melody. Cherry Ripe. Sally in our Alley. Sir Roger de Coverley.
HYPERION 68003 (79:46)
For some reason, though the music of Frank Bridge (1879–1941) is recorded reasonably often, he has yet to make much headway in our general awareness or on concerts outside of Britain. To judge from reviews in this journal, his recording heyday
was the 1990s, and much of that is of his songs and his chamber music, as, indeed, we have here. With one exception, the music on this disc is recorded in chronological order, as above, and one can hear the modest development in his style from the English Impressionism of the Cello Sonata (1913–17) to the slightly more acerbic strains of the Violin Sonata (1932). We are not talking about a great leap here, but a clear awareness that there are other sounds out there to be taken account of. This movement in Bridge’s style was taking place in the mid- to late 1920s, as in the orchestral poem,
(1927)—just, as it happens, when the 15-year-old Benjamin Britten began studying with him.
The Piano Quartet called “Phantasy,” from 1910, was the idea of Walter Cobbett, who commissioned 11 British composers to write single movement chamber works under the rubric of
. This is the sturdy piece that established Bridge’s reputation. Though it breaks no new ground experimentally, it shows some of the strengths of Bridge’s later orchestral music from the 1920s. It isn’t “British” if we mean by that the pastoralism of, say, Vaughan Williams, but it has its own clear voice. In this sense, it strikes me as a more adventurous piece than the succeeding cello sonata, which takes part in the neoromantic impulse which drives much British music of the period. The four short folk-song arrangements, for string quartet, come from 1908 to 1922, and it is in these we can hear Bridges’s development toward his own style most clearly, especially in the last of them, on
Sir Roger de Coverley
. The Violin Sonata which concludes this program is a fine demonstration of where Bridge had arrived toward the end of his life. It is a strong piece and ought to be heard more often.
The Nash Ensemble is a flexible chamber group. Here, it consists of Marianne Thorsen and Laura Samuel, violins, Lawrence Power, viola, Paul Watkins, cello, and Ian Brown, piano. They give a vigorous reading of the
Phantasy Piano Quartet
(H 94) that is to be recommended. Paul Watkins has recorded the Cello Sonata (H 125) before, with his brother (Nimbus, rev. 28:4), a recording I have not heard, but this one will do nicely. The folk-song arrangements are charming and contain few surprises, though the last one takes the tune apart and treats it more as thematic material than as a tune. The Violin Sonata (H 183) is not much recorded for some reason: the last review of one I can find in the
Archive is David K. Nelson’s from 2000 (23:6), which I have not heard. This version, however, can be heartily recommended. Paul Hindmarsh, whose catalog of Bridge’s works is the standard one, has contributed clear and helpful notes.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
Works on This Recording
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