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Frank Bridge: Piano Music, Vol. 1 (Ashley Wass, piano) torrent
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(b Brighton, 26 Feb 1879; d Eastbourne, 10 Jan 1941). English composer, violist and conductor. He studied the violin and composition at the RCM, where a scholarship won in 1899 enabled him to work under Stanford for four years. He quickly made a professional reputation as an outstanding conductor and chamber music player. In 1906 he took the place of the indisposed violist Wirth in the Joachim Quartet, and later joined the English String Quartet, of which he was a member until 1915. During this period he also undertook many important conducting engagements, presiding over repertory rehearsals for the newly founded New SO, conducting opera at the Savoy Theatre (1910–11) and at Covent Garden (1913), and appearing with such major orchestras as the LSO. Bridge’s musicianship made it possible for him to take on the most difficult programmes at short notice, and Henry Wood called on him for Promenade Concerts when he himself was incapacitated. In 1923 Bridge visited the USA to conduct his own music in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and New York. He was also a remarkable teacher, though Britten was his only composition pupil.
During the first decade of the century Bridge composed a large quantity of chamber music and songs; he quickly developed a masterly technique, and a flair for tailoring his music both to the taste of his audience and the capabilities of his performers. If songs like the well-known ‘E’en as a lovely flower’ are no more than drawing-room ballads, Bridge’s true abilities are evident in such pieces as the Phantasie Quartet in F minor and the First String Quartet. Although his strong individuality still had to develop, these works are expansive in form and warm in expression, the language being a personal extension of the Brahms-Stanford idiom, then common coin, but lightened by a Gallic clarity gleaned possibly from Fauré. The finest of his early chamber pieces is the Phantasie Piano Quartet (1910). Like the other phantasies, it was written for Cobbett who wished to revive in new dress the single-movement fancy of the 16th and 17th centuries. Each of the pieces in this form seeks to embrace the variety of mood and texture of a traditional four-movement structure. For example, the Piano Trio replaces the development of a sonata by a ternary slow movement, the centrepiece of which is a scherzo; in the simpler form of the Piano Quartet, main andante sections flank a central Allegro whose relaxed middle section refers to the work’s opening. These arch-shaped forms were to remain a preoccupation throughout the composer’s career.
Bridge’s chamber music is the one genre which affords a complete view of his extraordinary development, but he also composed for larger forces: during this early period he wrote a number of orchestral works, including the Dance Poem (a large symphonic waltz) and the brilliant and energetic Dance Rhapsody. The peak of his first style was attained with the exquisitely poised Suite for strings (1908) and The Sea (1910–11), one of his few orchestral works to have entered the British repertory. The Sea is a spacious four-movement suite which is typical of Bridge in combining poetic evocation with fine clarity of line and texture. It has something in common with the Bax of Tintagel and November Woods, and might even have influenced the harmony of these pieces, but Bridge’s music is polyphonically cleaner and freer, the harmony less dense. Bridge does not equal the intensity of Bax at this time, but a revolution of style was to avail him of a much greater power.
The orchestral work Summer shows his increased maturity, and if Bridge appears to have become committed here to an almost Delian Englishness, there is still a distinctive control of form and texture. Significantly, the most ecstatically Delian moments unfold in textbook polyphony, Bridge’s mastery of traditional techniques being now firmly wedded to his poetic expression. Summer’s haunting quality also informs the delicately beautiful Two Poems of Richard Jefferies, miniatures of refined subtlety which were completed in the following year. At this time Bridge was also engaged on the powerful two-movement Cello Sonata and the Second String Quartet, the first major chamber work of his maturity. Several traits of later Bridge characterize these pieces, particularly in turns of melody and in the increased chromaticism, but their easy-going romanticism is still far from the searing intensity of his postwar style.
In the following years he concentrated on smaller forms in songs and piano pieces, although the opera The Christmas Rose was also sketched at this period. Bridge’s next major work, the Piano Sonata, marked a crisis in his development. The achievement of this sonata distinguishes him from most of his British contemporaries. Previously his music had been comfortable, even conservative, as he explored with increasing depth and mastery a world not far removed from that of Bax and Ireland. The Piano Sonata suggests that he felt this world to be valid no longer, a view that may well have been precipitated by a deeply disturbing experience. Like many of his contemporaries, he must have been emotionally affected by World War I, particularly so because of his strong pacifist convictions. The radical change ushered in by the Piano Sonata was to some extent prefigured in earlier extensions of his language, but the new style may be related to a profound change in Bridge’s personality. The realist, who had formerly recognized the need to write within a convention acceptable to his potential audience, now with equal clear-mindedness saw the necessity to go beyond previous conventions.
But the Piano Sonata, and the masterly works which followed it, did not break all links with Bridge’s surroundings. It contains something of Ireland’s grim heroic feeling, and some chordal aggregations are not unlike those of Ireland and Bax. The great difference lies in Bridge’s recognition of the inherent bitonality of these aggregates, and his harmonic development is quite individual and far more radical. Whereas the harmony of Ireland and Bax frequently sounds like a dissonant decoration of fundamentally simple chords, Bridge’s harmony grows from the interval structure of his chords, as shown in ex.1, from the Piano Sonata. At the same time Bridge saw the need for a new flexibility of rhythm and form to embody his splintered tonality: moods, textures and tempos fluctuate rapidly, trains of thought are initiated by a free association, and expansive sections give the impression of continuous evolution, reinforced by Bridge’s tendency to avoid exact repetition.
All of his major works after the Piano Sonata exhibit these qualities to a greater or lesser degree, and the majority are of exceptional quality. The more private field of chamber music gave most opportunity for pursuance of the new style, and in the Third and Fourth String Quartets Bridge approached the early works of the Second Viennese School. There is the same determination to keep all 12 chromatic notes in play, the same pervasiveness of motivic relationships. Yet Bridge’s essential Englishness is always somehow in evidence, particularly in his sensuous use of harmony, and although his admiration for Berg is often evident, his own personality remains strongly individual. The magnificent Piano Trio no.2 and the last two quartets are among the pinnacles of 20th-century English chamber music, while the Violin Sonata is possibly the finest of his instrumental pieces, a superbly sustained single movement of characteristically ambivalent feeling.
The proportions of these works are grand, the range wide, and Bridge was concurrently writing outstanding orchestral music on a large scale. Enter Spring has a main Allegro of brilliant urgency and a hypnotically lovely pastoral episode; both contrast strongly with the sombre plangency of the short orchestral impression There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (1928). Bridge’s orchestral work is distinguished from his more extensive output of chamber music by the prominence of tone-painting. He clearly saw the chamber ensemble as a medium for purely abstract discourse, perceiving in the greater colouristic resources of the orchestra opportunities to use the evocative power and sensuous impact of texture. But for all its programmatic basis, the orchestral music is cogently argued, as always with Bridge. Single-movement forms predominate and the freely evolving structures move some way from the sonata matrices of the Third and Fourth Quartets. There is a Willow progresses through a chain of sections with very little repetition, finding a perfect close in the final threnody. Enter Spring displays mercurial changes of direction in a search for a definitive statement, and emphasis is thus thrown on the settled quality of the pastoral section. During the last decade of his life Bridge produced two outstanding concertante works: Phantasm for piano and the single-movement cello concerto Oration, a monumentally grand structure whose sustained contrapuntal energy and lyricism bring his preoccupation with the fantasy arch form to its culmination. His last complete work was the brilliant Rebus Overture, which combines the distinctive strains of energy, lyricism and emotional ambivalence within a harmonically simpler style.
The isolation of English musical life from far-reaching developments abroad was an obstacle to the recognition of Bridge’s later works. After his death his music fell into almost complete neglect, though interest was subsequently revived. The poetic insight and consummate technique of his work promise it a permanent place in the repertory.
The Two Hunchbacks (E. Cammaerts), incidental music, 1908
The Pageant of London, wind orch, male chorus, 1911
In the Shop, ballet, 1921
Threads (F. Stayton), incidental music, 1921
The Christmas Rose (opera, after children’s play, M. Kemp-Welch and Cotterel), 1919–29
Berceuse, 1901; Coronation March, 1901; Valse-Intermezzo, str, 1902; 3 Orchestral Pieces: Chant de tristesse, Chant d’espérance, Chant de gaité, 1902; Serenade, 1903; Symphonic Poem, 1903; Norse Legend, 1905, 1938; Dramatic Overture, c1906; Isabella, sym. poem, 1907; An Irish Melody, str, 1908, 1936; Dance Rhapsody, 1908; Suite, str, 1908; 5 Entr’actes (The Two Hunchbacks), 1910; The Sea, suite, 1910–11; The Pageant of London, suite, wind orch, 1911; [Coronation] March, 1911; Dance Poem, 1913: Summer, sym. poem, 1914; Lament, str, 1915 [also for pf]; 2 Poems of Richard Jefferies: The Open Air, The Story of my Heart, 1915; 2 Intermezzi (Threads), 1921, 1936; Sir Roger de Coverley, Christmas dance, str, 1922 [also for orch, str qt]; Enter Spring, rhapsody, 1927; There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, small orch, 1928; Oration, Concerto elegiaco, vc, orch, 1930; Phantasm, pf, orch, 1931; 2 Entr’actes, 1936; Vignettes de danse, small orch, 1938 [arr. 3 pf works, 1925]; Rebus Overture, 1940; Symphony, str, 1940–41, inc.
3 Dances, vn/vc, pf, 1900; Str Qt, B, 1900; Scherzo Phantastick, str qt, 1901; Str Qnt, e, 1901; Cradle Song, vn/vc, pf, 1902; Pf Qt, c, 1902; Scherzetto, vc, pf, c1902; Con moto, vn, pf, 1903; Serenade, vn/vc, pf (1903); Tempo di Mazurka, vc, pf, 1903; Elégie, vc, pf (1904); Novelletten, str qt, 1904; Romanze, vn, pf, 1904; Souvenir, vn/vc, pf, 1904; Vn Sonata, E, inc, 1904; Allegretto, va, pf, 1905; Amaryllis, vn, pf, 1905; Norse Legend, vn, pf, 1905; Pensiero, va, pf, 1905; Phantasie Quartet, f, str qt, 1905; Three Idylls, str qt, 1906; Str Qt ‘Bologna’, e, 1906; Valse Fernholt, str, pf, 1906; Miniatures, 3 sets, pf trio, 1906–7; Phantasie Piano Trio, c, 1907; Gondoliera, vn, pf, 1907; Allegro appassionato, va, pf (1908); An Irish Melody (Londonderry Air), str qt, 1908; Phantasie Piano Quartet, f, 1910; Cradle Song, vn, pf, 1910; Mélodie, vn/vc, pf, 1911; Pf Qnt, 1904–12; Str Sextet, 1906–12; 4 Short Pieces: Meditation, Spring Song, Lullaby, Country Dance, vn, pf [nos.1 and 2 also for vc, pf] (1912); Str Qt, g, 1915; Vc Sonata, 1913–17; Sally in our Alley, Cherry Ripe, str qt, 1916 [also for pf duet]; Morning Song, vc, pf (1919); Heartsease, vn, pf (1921) [arr. pf 1921]; Sir Roger de Coverley, str qt, 1922 [also for str orch, orch]; Str Qt no.3, 1926; Trio, rhapsody, 2 vn, va, 1928; Pf Trio no.2, 1929; Vn Sonata, 1932; Str Qt no.4, 1937; Divertimenti, fl, ob, cl, bn, 1934–8
Berceuse (Wordsworth) [also with orch acc.], 1901; When most I wink (Shakespeare), 1901; 2 Songs: The Primrose (Herrick), If I could choose (T. Ashe) (1902); Blow, blow thou winter wind (Shakespeare), 1903; The Devon maid (Keats) 1903; Music when soft voices die (Shelley) [also with va obbl], 1903; Where e’er my bitter teardrops fall (Heine), 1903; 4 Lyrics [also with orch acc.]: E’en as a lovely flower (Kroeker, after Heine), 1903, Dawn and Evening (C.A., after Heine), 1903, The Violets Blue (J. Thomson, after Heine), 1906, All things that we clasp (E. Lazarus, after Heine), 1907; Go not, happy day (Tennyson) [also with orch acc.], 1903
3 Songs: A Dirge (Shelley), 1903, Night lies on the silent highways (Kroeker, after Heine), 1904, A Dead Violet (Shelley), 1904; Cradle Song: What does little birdie say? (Tennyson), 1904; Remembrance (Shelley), c1904; Adoration (Keats) [also with orch acc.], 1905; Fair Daffodils (Herrick), 1905; Lean close thy cheek against my cheek (Heine), 1905; So perverse (Bridges) 1905; Tears, idle tears (Tennyson), 1905; Come to me in my dreams (Arnold), 1906; Far, far from each other, va obbl, 1906; My pent up tears oppress my brain, 1906; ‘Where is it that our soul doth go? (Kroeker, after Heine), va obbl, 1906
Love is a rose (L. Durand), 1907; Dear, when I look into thine eyes (Heine), 1908; Isobel (D. Goddard-Fenwick), 1912; O that it were so (Landor) (1913); Strew no more red roses (Arnold), 1913; Love went a-riding (M. Coleridge) [also with orch acc.], 1914; Where she lies asleep (M. Coleridge) [also with orch acc.], 1916; Go not, happy day (Tennyson) (1916); Thy hand in mine (M. Coleridge), 1917
Mantle of blue (P. Colum) [also with orch acc.], 1918; Blow out you bugles (Brooke) [also with orch acc.], 1918; So early in the morning (J. Stephens), 1918; The last invocation (Whitman), 1918; When you are old (Keats), 1919; Into her keeping (D. Lowry), 1919; What shall I your true love tell? (F. Thompson), 1919; Tis but a week (G. Gould), 1919; 3 Songs (Tagore) [also with orch acc.]: Day after day, 1922, Speak to me my love, 1924, Dweller in my deathless dreams, 1925; Golden Hair (Joyce), 1925; Journey’s End (H. Wolfe), 1925
The Hag (Herrick), Bar, orch, 1902; Autumn (Shelley), SATB (1903); Music when soft voices die (Shelley), SATB (1904); 2 Songs (Bridges: I praise the tender flower, Thou didst delight my eyes), Bar, orch, 1905–6; Hilly-ho, hilly-ho (Moore), SATB, 1909; O weary hearts (Longfellow), SATB, 1909; The Bee (Tennyson), SATB, 1913; A Prayer (à Kempis), chorus, orch, 1916–18; For God, and King and Right (V. Mason), chorus (1916); The Graceful Swaying Wattle (Mason), 2-part chorus (1916); Lullaby (Mason), 3-part chorus (1916); Peter Piper, 3 equal vv (1916)
A Litany (P. Fletcher), 3-part chorus, 1918; Sister awake, close not your eyes (T. Bateson), 2-part chorus, 1918; Lay a garland on my hearse (Beaumont and Fletcher), 2-part chorus, 1918; Lantido Dilly (anon. 17th century), 3-part chorus, pf, 1919; Variations sur Cadet Rousselle (trad.), 1920 [with Bax, Goossens and Ireland]; The Fairy Ring, 3-part chorus, pf ad lib, 1922; A Spring Song (M. Howitt), unison, str ad lib, 1922; Pan’s Holiday (J. Shirley), 2-part chorus, str, pf, 1922; Evening Primrose, 2-part chorus (1923); Golden Slumbers (Dekker), 3-part chorus (1923); Hence Care (anon. 16th century), 3-part chorus (1923)
Berceuse, 1901; Pensées Fugitives, I, 1902; Scherzettino, 1902; Moderato, 1903; Capriccio no.1, a, 1905; Etude rhapsodique, 1905; 2 Piano Solos: A Sea Idyll, Capriccio no.2, f, 1905; Dramatic Fantasia, 1906; 3 Sketches: April, Rosemary, Valse capricieuse, 1906; 3 Pieces: Minuet, Columbine, Romance, 1912; 3 Poems: Solitude, Ecstasy, Sunset, 1913–14; Arabesque (1914); Lament, 1915 [also for str orch]; 4 Characteristic Pieces: Water Nymphs, Fragrance, Bittersweet, Fireflies, 1915; Sally in our Alley Cherry Ripe, duet, 1916 [also for str qt]; 3 Miniature Pastorals, 3 sets, 1917–21; A Fairy Tale Suite: The Princess, The Ogre, The Spell, The Prince, 1917; The Turtle’s Retort (1919)
3 Improvisations for the Left Hand: At Dawn, A Vigil, A Revel, 1918; The Hour Glass: Dusk, Dew Fairy, Midnight Tide, 1919–20; Miniature Suite, 1921; In the Shop, suite, pf duet, 1921; Sonata, 1921–4; 3 Lyrics: Heartsease, 1921; 1921, Dainty Rogue, 1921, The Hedgerow, 1924; In Autumn: Retrospect, Through the Eaves, 1924; 4 Pieces: Carmelita, Niccollette, Zoraida, En fête, 1925 [nos.2, 3 and 1 arr. orch as Vignettes de danse]; Winter Pastoral, 1925; Canzonetta, 1926; A Dedication, 1926; Graziella; Hidden Fires, (1927); Gargoyle, 1928
Adagio ma non troppo, 1901; 3 Pieces: Andante moderato, c, Adagio, E, Allegro con spirito, B (1905); Organ Pieces, Book 1: Allegretto grazioso, Allegro commodo, Allegro marziale, 1905; Organ Pieces, Book 2: Andante con moto, Andantino, Allegro ben moderato, 1912; In memoriam C.H.H.P., 1918; Minuet, 1939; Prelude, 1939; Processional, 1939
Easter Hymn, v, pf (1912) [also for chorus (1930)]
A. Corelli: Christmas Concerto, orch (c1920)
J.S. Bach: Komm süsser Tod, pf, 1931 [also for str orch, 1936]
Principal publishers: Stainer & Bell, Boosey & Hawkes
MSS in GB-Lcm
ANTHONY PAYNE (work-list with PAUL HINDMARSH, bibliography with LEWIS FOREMAN)