> Frank BRIDGE - Orchestral Works: Volume 2 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Orchestral Works: Volume 2.

Dance Rhapsody (1908) [19.20]
Five Entr'actes from Emile Cammaerts's play The Two Hunchbacks (1910) [12.08]
Dance Poem (1913) [14.01]
Norse Legend (1905/1938) [4.50]
The Sea - suite (1908) [22.10]
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
rec Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 19-20 Sept 2001 DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10012 [72.37]


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I missed volume 1 of this series. However going by the critiques of colleagues the series launched auspiciously with an elementally remorseless Enter Spring as its centrepiece. This is his greatest work - a single movement nature symphony as ineluctably compelling as Alwyn's Hydriotaphia, Lambert's Music for Orchestra, Rubbra's Eleventh or Havergal Brian's Symphonia Brevis.

The two dance works on this CD were coupled on a late 1970s Lyrita LP in performances by the LPO conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite. They were revelatory events full of sweep and panache aided by the LPO's virtuoso precision. The BBC Welsh put across all of the propulsive power of those now long gone (and of course unissued on CD) interpretations and only lack the last veneer of coordination and definition. They are recorded as well as the LPO. The Dance Rhapsody is an eruptive dionysiac work with strange premonitions of Nielsen and even de Falla. Though nowhere near as revolutionary (parts of it sound Elgarian) the instinctual spark derives from the same arousal and charge as Grainger's ballet The Warriors.

The Entr'actes soothe and tickle, lilt and sing. They are gentle unassuming creations which fit well alongside the acreage of light music created by British composers during the first half of the 20th century though standing in the Royal Enclosure by comparison with the tired generality of much of this output. The Norse Legend (originally for violin and piano) is another light and slight genre piece.

The Dance Poem stands closer to the chill of There is a Willow and though broadly contemporaneous with the idyllic Summer it is far distant from the direct romantic giddiness of the Dance Rhapsody. Although there is at least one eruption it is far more knowing; rather like the rollicking climax that tops off the tango movement of Samuel Barber's suite Souvenirs. There are a surprising number of Baxian fingerprints too. The episodes in the Poem are: The Dancer; Allurement; Abandon; Tenderness; Problem; Disillusion. Does this chart the course of an affair turned to ashes?

The Sea, the work that with Enter Spring, bowled over the young Britten, was written in Eastbourne, the same seaside town where Debussy had completed his La Mer. Surely Bax was influenced by this work in his Tintagel - listen to 2.10 and 3.04 tr. 9. Is that a quote or what? The Bridge work is lucidly textured avoiding the wash and swell of impressionism; instead painting in broad clear swathes of melody. This is a remarkably fine performance to put alongside those of Groves/RLPO (EMI, 1977) and Handley/Ulster (Chandos, 1980s). Most impressive of all is Hickox's way with the Storm movement (tr. 12) with the loud crash of combers and the scattering smithereens of spray and spume. In all this the details of the harp part are not lost.

There is still plenty of Bridge territory to cover in later volumes including the two major concertante works: Phantasm for piano and orchestra and Oration - Concerto Elegiaco for cello and orchestra, never mind the overture Rebus.

Notes are by leading Bridge authority, Paul Hindmarsh. Every detail of this production speaks of the most exalted qualities.

Rob Barnett



Vol. 1: Isabella, Enter Spring, Mid of the Night, Two Poems. BBCNOW/Hickox Chandos CHAN 9950

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