From Dainty Rogue to Gargoyle – Adventures in Miniature.
Mark Bebbington, piano
Mark Bebbington’s ongoing survey of the complete piano music of Frank Bridge for SOMM continues to attract worldwide interest to works of exceptional quality and creative adventure. The cycle’s third volume, coinciding with the composer’s 70th anniversary, reveals the full inventive range of Bridge’s keyboard miniatures, from the elegant Berceuse of his student years at the Royal College of Music to the Scriabinesque Hidden Fires of 1926 and expressionistic Gargoyle of 1928. Bebbington’s programme also includes A Dedication, with its unsettling intimations of grief for all those slaughtered during the First World War, and the Three Improvisations for left hand, written for the young pianist and organist Douglas Fox, whose lower right arm was amputated in 1917 after he was wounded fighting in France.
Perceptions of British music, often shaded by tired prejudices and ill-informed opinion, have been radically revised in recent years. ‘Bridge so often transcends any stereotype of what a British composer of his generation is or ought to be,’ observes Mark Bebbington. ‘We see him absorbing influences of the Second Viennese School in general and Alban Berg in particular in his Piano Sonata of 1921-24. That openness to new ideas surfaces time and again in his piano miniatures. There’s such a strong personal expression and feeling for structure in these pieces, too, which for me places them among the finest of all short piano works by a British composer. Gargoyle, for instance, is in many ways the most harmonically advanced and daring of Bridge’s piano compositions, something that strikes the ear even today as original, daring and adventurous.’
Enigmatic and intriguing as man and artist, Frank Bridge (1879-1941) attracted international attention during his later years with music of intense expression and striking individuality. The composer’s reputation as both ‘radical and conservative’, fully justified by the range of his output over more than four decades, was overshadowed posthumously by a long period of neglect and relegation to the status of ‘Britten’s teacher’.
The rediscovery of Bridge’s music gathered momentum with the release of landmark recordings in the mid-1970s and has since opened ears to a rich body of work. ‘He showed that he had the courage … to experiment with style in response to new perceptions and risk a period of less successful creativity before achieving a new perfection,’ observes Anthony Payne in his groundbreaking monograph on the composer’s work.
The Piano Music of Frank Bridge Vol.III encompasses three decades of creative risk-taking and courageous invention.
On This Recording
- 3 Poems: No. 1. Solitude
- 3 Poems: No. 2. Ecstasy
- 3 Poems: No. 3. Sunset
- Hidden Fires
- Pensées Fugitives: Pensées fugitives
- Miniature Pastorals: Set 3: I. Andante molto tranquillo
- Miniature Pastorals: Set 3: II. Allegro con moto
- Miniature Pastorals: Set 3: III. Allegro vivace
- 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
- Winter Pastoral
- 3 Lyrics: No. 1. Heart’s Ease: Andante tranquillo – Lento
- 3 Lyrics: No. 2. Dainty Rogue: Molto allegro e vivo
- 3 Lyrics: No. 3. The Hedgerow: Allegretto moderato
- A Dedication
Volume 1 — SOMMCD 056
April, Rosemary, Valse Capricieuse, Capriccio No. 2, Vignettes de Marseille, Sonata for Piano.
«Bebbington reveals the profound and poetic in Bridge. These are benchmark performances….»
Calum MacDonald BBC Music Magazine, September 2006 5***** Instrumental Choice BBC Music Magazine, September 2006
Volume 2 — SOMMCD 082
Fairy Tale Suite, In Autumn, Miniature Pastorals Set 1, Etude Rhapsodique, Graziella, Dramatic
Fantasia, Columbine, Minuet, Romance, A Sea Idyll (No. 1), Miniature Suite, Characteristic Pieces.
«A magical recital of exquisite miniatures that confirms Mark Bebbington as one of the most gifted colourists of his generation. In the shamelessly Ravelian Characteristic Pieces Bebbington conjures up shimmering landscapes in sound via an alluring range of textures, touch-sensitivity and micropedalling that has one positively aching to hear him in Jeux d’eau or Miroirs.
Bridge’s heady mix of Scriabinesque chromatic sensuality with middle-period Debussy-like charm and whimsy are enormously challenging to master both technically and interpretatively, yet Bebbington makes it all appear effortless. This is a recital that seduces simply by the sound it makes, enhanced by state-of-the-art engineering from producer Siva Oke and engineer Paul Arden-Taylor. It is impossible
to imagine this wonderful music ever being better played.»
Julian Haylock, International Piano, January/February 2009