Enter Spring is the most accessible of Frank
Bridge’s late works. This is not a faint-hearted dreamy portrait of
Spring but a vigorous and vivacious evocation, full of energy and life,
even wild and pagan in its huge climaxes. The evocation of the countryside
waking noisily from its winter sleep is very realistic, you can hear
massed choruses of full-throated birds singing joyfully in the hedgerows.
Yet there is, in the central section a magical serenity that, for me,
makes it one of the most beautiful passages of music in the whole of
British music. Marriner paints a lusty and sympathetic picture but he
is not quite as persuasive as Sir Charles Groves on the rival EMI set
that also includes The Sea and Summer.
On the surface Summer seems to be a more conventional
depiction of the English countryside, slow and meditative and nostalgic
of golden summer days but there is more to this middle period work,
more than a sultry sensuous evocation. There is the same keen observation
as in Enter Spring, the same rustling and warbling: yet there
is also something more vital, and vaguely disturbing. All of this is
nicely conveyed in Marriner’s sensitive reading; and what a glorious
climax he shapes.
The Christmas Dance – Sir Roger de Coverley
is another work from Bridge’s middle period and it is an excellently
crafted miniature for strings that is an arrangement of the British
folksong, full of exuberance and a concluding reference to New Year
celebrations and 'Auld Lang Syne’.
Benjamin Britten was, of course, a student of Frank
Bridge and the two men later became firm friends, Britten often visiting
his mentor in his beautiful Sussex home. And, one will recall, that
Britten composed his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge in
his teacher’s honour. So this recording of Bridge’s Cello Sonata with
Britten at the piano and Rostropovich has a particular resonance and
intensity. The Cello Sonata comes from Bridge’s middle period and shows
that he is embracing an increasingly wide range of stylistic references.
It is accessible and melodic, one can hear something of Rachmaninov
in its yearning and anguish. There is a little of Bax too, plus a dash
of folk song, but it is pure Bridge throughout.
The concert ends with the incomparable Kathleen Ferrier
singing the lovely little song Go Not Happy Day, to words by
Tennyson, with its contented rippling accompaniment. Enchanting.
A worthy compilation of Bridge works from his middle
and late periods: beautiful works splendidly played – especially the
Cello Sonata by Bridge’s erstwhile student Benjamin Britten and Mstislav