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Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
String Quartet No. 4 H188 (1938) [21.52]
Alan BUSH (1900-1995)

Suite of Six Op. 81 (1975) [26.16]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)

Chacony in G minor ed. Benjamin BRITTEN [7.26]
Bochmann String Quartet
rec. 8 July 2003, The Downs School, Colwall, Worcs (Bridge, Purcell); 5 Oct 2003, Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, Oxford. DDD
Recording made with financial assistance from the Alan Bush Music Trust and the Royal College of Music Frank Bridge Trust.

Read the Booklet Notes

This is Redcliffe's third disc in their British String Quartets series.

The Bridge quartet (his last) continues his alliance with 1930s continental models. It has more in common with Berg, Haba, Bartók and late Zemlinsky than with his own music from the teens of the century. The music critics of his day could not forgive him for his self-chosen abdication from the exalted heights of lyricism pronounced by his Summer and The Sea. This quartet and its predecessor as well as the 1929 Piano trio were roundly condemned with Bridge effectively damned as a follower of the latest fashionable camp. The music of the Fourth Quartet is probing, fierce, psychologically ambiguous, haunted, confident and while it may not be out and out twelve tone there is nothing tentative about the way it embraces dissonance. The work was written for his patroness, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge whose cheques sustained him for many years. The quartet was premiered at Mrs Coolidge's Berkshire Festival at Pittsfield, Massachusetts in September 1939 just as the world was lurching into another era of slaughter. Bridge had seen enough of war with favourite pupils (including Ernest Farrar) killed amid the bloodletting of the English officer class at Mons and the Somme. Ironically this work ends with an optimistic skip in its otherwise jaundiced step.

Alan Bush was another composer, albeit of a later generation than Bridge, who drew sustenance from the Continental traditions. Bush's Suite of Six is the last of his four works for string quartet and was premiered by the Chilingirians in London on 15 December 1975. It is full of energy, variety and incident. The Reel (tr. 6) dances and bustles along breathing the English folk tradition but freed from smocks and pitchforks - ‘Dance clarion air’ indeed! It feels coherent across its eight sections each tracked separately. The Moto Perpetuo (tr.9) coasts close to Frank Bridge's Roger de Coverley - delightful! The work ends in a wraithlike tendrils of melody. This is the work's premiere recording. The change of recording venue from the Bridge imparts a cooler air which is marginally uncongenial to the music. Nothing serious - I simply preferred the immediacy of the other acoustic. Nothing to detract from a very fine addition to the string quartet catalogue and a pathfinder for the eventual issue of the ClassicO CD of Bush's first two symphonies. Surely we will not have to wait more than a couple of years now before the Piano Concerto is recorded alongside two other masterworks of the Bush oeuvre: the opera The Sugar Reapers and the Byron Symphony.

The sound achieved by the Bochmann in the Purcell/Britten Chacony is like poured molten platinum - searing in its emotional heat and intense in its concentration.

Leaving aside the shortish playing time (there was room for another quartet - perhaps one of Bernard Van Dieren's six would have gained real éclat for Redcliffe) this disc is bound to attract interest. There are other performances of the Bridge but the Bridge/Bush juxtaposition works well. Repertoire explorers are unlikely to be anything other than delighted that these serious and inspired works can now be had together and in the case of the Bush for the first time in the commercial catalogue.

Hats off to Redcliffe for their spirited way with this recording project. Also they should stick with the more colourful design they have found for the cover of this CD. Previous discs have been rather sober affairs. This looks the part and catches the eye on the shelf.

Rob Barnett


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