This is not the first
recording connection between the music
of Frank Bridge with New Zealand. After
an eminent orchestral series on Lyrita,
the conductor Nicholas Braithwaite moved
to New Zealand and continued to record
there. Judd’s Naxos Elgar met some welcomes
and some resistance. How will he fare
taps into a quickened pulse
- listen to the pacing of the Sibelian
chatter at the start. However the slower
music languishes narcissistically -
exactly as it should. There are moments
when Bridge is close to Delius but he
has an intensity of action that Delius
usually lacks except in a work like
North Country Sketches with which
Summer shares an innocent vigorous
atmosphere and character.
The very next year
(the second year of the Great War) drew
a further countryside-based work. This
is the diptych Two Poems inspired
by the countryside writings of Richard
Jefferies. The languid first poem speaks
of the haze of distance and beauty,
thoughts and feelings that remain undefined,
unfocused. This matches well with Howells'
chamber works of that time, Butterworth's
contemporaneous orchestral pieces and
the spirit of Arnold's ‘Scholar Gypsy’
and of the Gloucestershire wanderings
of Ivor Gurney. The first poem relates
to the Jefferies story The Open Air
(1883). The second connects with
The Story of My Heart (1885).
The latter is a delightful scherzo catching
the verdant brilliance, the rustle of
leaves, the laughing breezes of Jefferies
words 'the dance never still, the laugh
... like water which runs for ever.'
The two poems are over in ten minutes.
Kindred works include Foulds' April-England
(on Lyrita), Hadley's The Trees
So High and yes even Philippe Sarde’s
score for Polanski's Tess.
Judd’s The Sea
is very romantic and Sibelian
- in the Lemminkainen manner.
There are many affecting moments but
one I must mention is the superbly sustained
and poetic playing the NZSO flautist
at 2.10 in Moonlight. If in Storm
the horns lack the close-up 'bite'
of Hickox's Chandos this is still outstandingly
done and the final pages have a ‘bigness’
that I have not heard before.
The masterwork here
is Enter Spring. It might
as easily, but with less originality,
have been called ‘The March of Spring’
for it is equally unstoppable and has
an irrepressible energy. About two minutes
shorter than Groves classic account
on EMI it is more intrepidly stormy.
Marriner on Decca is about one minute
quicker. There is a certain iron in
the sound of the NZSO strings which
is absent from the RLPO and Marriner
versions. This is compounded by the
slightly reduced transparency of the
This is a most attractive
package made complete by Keith Anderson's
helpful notes and the cover reproduction
of a painting Squally weather, south
coast by one Henry Moore (1831-1895).
This is a good inexpensive
introduction to the music of Frank Bridge
- a by no means parochial composer.
The music is unsettling and startlingly
original in the case of Enter Spring.
see also review
by John France