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Frank BRIDGE (1879 - 1941)
Orchestral Works Volume 3

Coronation March (1911) [6.46]
Summer (1914) [10.42]
Phantasm, Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra (1931) [24.21]
There is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook (1927) [11.18]
Vignettes de danse (1938) [11.20]
Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance) (1922) [4.41]
Howard Shelley (piano)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Gymreig y BBC)/Richard Hickox
CD tracks in stereo. SACD tracks in 2 channel stereo and in surround sound.
Recorded with the Royal College of Music Frank Bridge Bequest.
Hybrid SACD playable on CD players and SACD players

CHANDOS CHSA 5018 [69.55]

The identical program is also available on Chandos CD CHAN 10112 see reviews: Rob Barnett. Tony Haywood

Jack Benny used to get a laugh on his radio program just by mentioning the name of the California town Cucamonga. Today this would be politically incorrect, as Cucamonga was the original native name for the San Gabriel Valley in California, the original natives having been exterminated so quickly they left virtually no other evidence of their existence except a few place names. (A mote of justice has recently been accomplished when a newly discovered planetoid was named after one of their Gods, Quaoar.). When I first moved to Idaho I found that, if an evening of conversation quieted down, all one had to do was mention the name of the Idaho town Pocatello and everybody would break into laughter and the evening would liven up again.

For many English the equivalent of this is to say "Wales." Especially since Charlton Heston in "A Man for all Seasons," that’s been a laugh line. So, whether the very dignified Frank Bridge would approve of his music being produced in Wales is questionable. But perhaps there is a logic in associating oppressed native peoples and oppressed composers, for Bridge has long been one of those "important" composers who was not much listened to, although this situation is changing. However he is for some people a hero, even a martyr, of British Music, so I am embarrassed to say I had never heard any of this music before. Some have suggested that Bridge’s music is "derivative," but with careful listening it is at once obvious that while some aspects of his style may be familiar, this is original and captivating music that is easily accessible.

The "Coronation March" is an interesting work. From the standpoint of musical quality it is banal in the extreme, but isn’t that what one wants for a coronation march? What member of Royalty would want to be the second most interesting thing around to listen to? This work sounds like a pastiche of all the clichés from all the film scores you’ve ever heard; if it had been written for Queen Elizabeth in 1953 it would have been embarrassing. But it was written in 1911, sixteen years before the first sound film! That makes it a fascinating accomplishment. And, what the heck, it’s a lot of fun, one pompous fanfare after another.

"Summer" is reminiscent of, but better than, Delius; and more sprightly, more "English," than Webern’s "Im Sommerwind" but not completely unlike it in tone. There is just a touch of Siegfried here and there as we’re used to from Holst.

The "Phantasm" for Piano and Orchestra is the most substantial work on the disk. If Debussy had written a mature piano concerto it might have sounded something like this. There is occasionally more than a whiff of Szymanowski.

The "Vignettes de Danse" are not strictly ballet music, although a ballet could be very effectively done to them. The rhythmic passages are frequently interrupted with reflections. Again the ghosts of Delius and perhaps Ravel and Chabrier hover.

The ‘Impression for Small Orchestra, "There is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook"’ was originally intended to be a pair with "Summer," but ended up being a dark, mysterious work based on the quotation from Hamlet which gives it its title. This work is better known than some of Bridge’s orchestral music having been previously recorded by Norman Del Mar and released on Chandos 6566, reissued on Chandos 8373.

"Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance) for Large Orchestra" (as distinct from the original version of the work for string quartet) was orchestrated for Henry Wood’s Promenade concert on 21 October 1922 and with its quotation from Auld Lang Syne forms a colourful, cheerful conclusion for the concert.

I should point out that I have never been other than amazed and delighted with any music performed by Richard Hickox and/or the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and recorded by Chandos. Such consistent and dependable quality, rare enough in this day, deserves frequent and enthusiastic mention.

The CD tracks on the SACD would not play in my Sony DDU 1621 DVD drive. If you have this difficulty, you might want to try this solution that worked for me on one occasion: Open Explorer, and double click on your CD drive. Be sure "hidden" files and suffices ("Types") are displayed. You should see the list of "cdda" files from the CD. Double click on track 1, and "CD Player" should open and the disk should be playable. This solution did not work with "Media Player 2." The CD tracks played fine on my other Sony computer drives, and I had no trouble playing the disk on my Emerson portable player which is sometimes balky.

The sound on the SACD tracks is wonderfully clear and realistic, even beyond Chandos usual CD quality. Digital comparison of the wave forms shows that the CD tracks on the SACD and the tracks on the CD-only release are identical to the last bit. This need not be the case, and may not be the case with other releases on this or other labels.

Now, Chandos, old buddies, how soon do we get the complete orchestral works of Sir Donald Francis Tovey? You can do those in Scotland.

Paul Shoemaker

See MusicWeb's Frank Bridge pages written by Rob Barnett

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