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Frank Bridge: Chamber Music

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 087
Release Date: 06/01/2009
Number of Discs: 1
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Liner Notes
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SOMM’s highly successful series on British music continues with a disc which contains one of Frank Bridge’s most beautiful works, the Piano Quintet in D minor. The Quintet is thematically a particularly hearfelt and impassioned work, possibly reflecting Bridge’s own separation from his close confidante and future wife, Ethel Sinclair, who returned to her native Australia after graduation from the RCM in 1903.

Bridge String Quartet:
Colin Twigg, Cathy Schofield – Violins
Michael Schofield – Viola
Lucy Wilding – Cello

Composed in 1904, it has 4 movements. Bridge fused together the inner two movements, creating a three-movement cyclic structure. It begins with a restlessly brooding Allegro moderato opening, leading to a wistful second subject in the major. This becomes the important theme which returns transformed at key moments in each of the movements, creating cyclic unity.

Composed rapidly in September 1904 Novelletten was the first quartet work Bridge chose to acknowledge, the title suggesting a nod to German romanticism.  It consists  of three distinct pieces (Andante moderato, Presto-Allegretto and Allegro Vivo). Composed in 1904, these are emotionally distinct character pieces with some original wit and “theatricality”. Bridge makes subtle use of thematic ideas from the first two movements and cleverly re-introduces the very opening Andante theme at the climactic point of the third movement.

The Rhapsody Trio for 2 violins and viola composed in 1928, was written during Bridge’s “modernist” phase. It inhabits a surreal world and it’s not difficult to see why Bridge’s pupil Benjamin Britten highly rated this totally overlooked work. “I can well remember discussions about this work, when as a boy I was working with Bridge, and heard a try-through of it… in my opinion the work is decidedly worth reviving… it has a strong fantastic character, very personal themes and wonderfully resourceful writing for the instruments”.

Lament for Two Violas was composed in 1912 at the height of Bridge’s career when he was a phenomenally busy and talented violist. This is in ternary form and it richly combines and exploits the darker sonorities of the two instruments. Bridge and Lionel Tertis gave the première of this work in Bechstein Hall in 1912.

When his 2nd String Quartet claimed the 1915 Cobbett Prize, Bridge was at the height of his popularity. His “Cherry Ripe (1916), one of a pair of virtuoso miniatures arranged for the popular end of the market was given additional double-bass parts to make them adaptable for string orchestra.

This enjoyable disc ends with Sir Roger de Coverley ( A Christmas Dance) composed in 1922. It’s a witty, virtuoso arrangement of the traditional Scottish folk-dance. In this Bridge evokes the breathless nature of the dance, building a collage of its rhythmic and melodic fragments initially. After several variations of the full tune, the revelry reaches the midnight hour and the viola can clearly be heard in the background intoning “Auld Lang Syne”. In 1922 Bridge and his wife had the good fortune of meeting the American millionairess and patron of  the arts, Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge with whom they soon established what was to become a lifelong friendship. Sir Roger’s popular success at the last night of the 1922 Proms (in the full orchestral version) conducted by the composer, confirmed Bridge’s name on the invitation list of “desirables” for Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge’s 1923 Berkshire Music Festival (USA).

The Bridge Quartet is firmly established as one of Britain’s leading string quartets. Their acclaimed recordings for Meridian, particularly of the complete quartets by their namesake, the British composer Frank Bridge (1879-1941), have led to invitations to tour internationally, including the USA, Switzerland and this season in Italy, Spain and France.  They also feature on a highly acclaimed Naxos recording of William Alwyn chamber music which sold over 3000 copies in the first six months. In 2006 they were the only quartet invited to represent Britain at the Fayence International Quartet Festival. They often perform in Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Tuscany (Italy).

In London, highlights include Haydn ‘Seven Last Words’ and late Beethoven at the South Bank Centre as well as a recital to a capacity audience at Wigmore Hall: Ravel and Brahms quartets and the first London performance of the Bridge Viola Quintet. The Quartet has performed in many festivals and series throughout the UK such as the Warwick International Quartet Series and Cambridge Summer Recitals as well as for numerous music clubs. They collaborate with some of the UK’s outstanding performers in Brahms Sextet, Schubert cello quintet, Mozart viola quintets as well as clarinet and piano quintets. Recent performances of the Bridge Piano Quintet with Michael Duseek, piano, have been highly praised.

The members of the Bridge Quartet are highly respected as coaches on international courses such as the Dartington International Summer School as well as various courses for amateurs throughout Europe. Their pioneering educational work has won several awards and was featured on BBC Television. They are Musicians-in-Residence in the London Borough of Hounslow where they give community performances and showcase their “West 4 Sunday Series” in the Edwardian surroundings and excellent acoustics of Chiswick Town Hall, London W4.

Their discovery of an early quartet by Delius led to premiere performances at the Delius Festival in the USA and a recording, coupled with quartets by Grieg and Grainger. This received the highest rating by Diapason “une revelation totale” and was the Chamber Music Disc of the Month in The Strad: “An outstanding release … enchanting performances.” Their most recent CD, of chamber music by Bridge as a student, was reviewed in Gramophone 2005: “Pleasing discoveries … the Bridge Quartet prove persuasive advocates … intensely warmhearted … a very attractive release,” and by The Strad in 2005: “A landmark recording with gripping ensemble … highly recommendable.

Since his Wigmore Hall debut in 1980 Michael Dussek has performed in many of the world’s major concert halls, partnering leading international soloists such as violinists Cho-Liang Lin, Antje Weithaas and Xue Wei, cellist Ofra Harnoy and singers Bernarda Fink and Ian Partridge. In 2006 he performed 13 recitals in Japan with violinist Ryu Goto including a Suntory Hall recital recorded live for CD and DVD by Deutsche Grammophon.

Dussek’s recordings include the first three Piano Concertos by York Bowen, with the BBC Concert orchestra under Vernon Handley (the first concerto was selected for Fanfare magazine’s Hall of Fame). This was part of a series of recordings of works by 20th-century British composers including Bax, Colerige-Taylor, Leighton and Rubbra. Two of these discs were nominated for Gramophone Awards.

Michael Dussek is a Fellow and Professor of London’s Royal Academy of Music.

The booklet notes are written by Michael Schofield and have been translated into French.

On This Recording

  1. Piano Quintet: I. Adagio – Allegro moderato
  2. Piano Quintet: II. Adagio ma non troppo
  3. Piano Quintet: III. Allegro energico
  4. Novelletten: I. Andante moderato
  5. Novelletten: II. Presto: Allegretto
  6. Novelletten: III. Allegro vivo
  7. Trio, rhapsody
  8. 2 Pieces: 2 Pieces for 2 Violas: No. 2. Lament in C Minor
  9. Cherry Ripe
  10. Sir Roger de Coverley: Sir Roger de Coverley, “A Christmas Dance”