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Lyrita New Recording
Sarah Beth Briggs
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Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Oration - Concerto elegiaco for cello and
orchestra (1930) [31:07]
Phantasm - Rhapsody for piano and orchestra
Peter Wallfisch (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. October 1976, Southwark (Oration); November 1975,
Kingsway Hall (Phantasm). ADD
is a disc for Bridge connoisseurs.
one volume is gathered his two major post-War (WW1) concerto
scores. Each marks a scorched apotheosis from the summery
pastorals of Edwardian innocence into a world of half-lights
and disillusion. Beauty and gritty triumph are there but
they are always hard won. The language shows an expressionist
tendency, an awareness of Berg, of Schreker and Zemlinsky.
That the awareness was also coupled with a willingness -
an aptitude to adopt this very different language was down
to the tragedy of the Great War. Its effect can also be felt
in the Piano Sonata, the final two string quartets and the
Piano Trio No. 2 - all of which are to feature in Lyrita
reissues of classic Decca recordings in the Autumn.
first became aware of these initially forbidding scores from
broadcasts in the mid/late 1970s. Oration came out
of the blue in a studio recording (repeated several times)
of Thomas Igloi (cello) with the ECO conducted by Frederick
Prausnitz. Phantasm was played by Peter Wallfisch
(father of Raphael who has recorded Oration for Nimbus)
with the ECO conducted by Steuart Bedford. It's a pity
that they have not been issued - especially the magical Igloi Oration.
Oration might well be taken as an outcry against
the futility of war. It radiates brooding anger and grievous
tragedy. Julian Lloyd Webber is an eloquent orator articulating
Everyman as victim, as the bereft and as the protester. There
is that bloodied but unbowed sense yet the music is completely
unsentimental. Oration is a great work given here
a great performance although I seem to remember reading that
the sessions were virtually sight-read. The Epilogue,
with its eldritch chiming and wistfully whistling strings,
sings a benediction and a last soulful phrase from the cello
over rising protest and a sighing into silence; nothing of
the carnival here.
is typical of Lyrita's high artistic standards that there
is a long silence between the end of Oration and the
start of Phantasm. Wraiths and dispossessed
spirits seem to wander through an impressionistic world with
some Gallic elements. It is more dissonant than Oration.
The second movement in particular has a ruthless activity
about it and an almost murderous seriousness of purpose.
One can imagine Bernard Herrmann loving this work - I wonder
if he ever performed it, perhaps with the CBS network when
he was performing so many British works in the 1940s. The
darkly spangled heroism at 2.01 in the allegro moderato has
some parallels with Nights in the Gardens of Spain but
here the gardens are full of lichen, poisonous greenery and
leering misshapen creatures. If Oration is Concerto
Elegiaco then Phantasm could easily have been Concerto
Macabre. It would have fascinated Peter Warlock, Cecil
Gray, Bernard van Dieren and Constant Lambert. This is a
magnificent work which is by no means entirely wispy mezzotints
- the two allegro movements II and IV radiate a devastatingly
effective heroism shot through with morbidity. None of the
movements are without Bridge's touching yet tortured lyricism
even if it is glimpsed through shattered mirror shards -
half Ravel and half Schoenberg.
thirty-plus year old recordings report a myriad lapidary
details yet retain solid impact and a great sense of depth
is the first time these two works have been coupled on a
single disc. Previously they have been grouped with other
things - either shorter pieces by Bridge or similar concerto-scale
pieces by other composers. Isserlis's EMI recording was with
the Britten Cello Symphony. Wallfisch's is with the
Elgar concerto - a good juxtaposition since both are suffused
with the impact of the Great War. The unjustly forgotten
but superb Pearl recording by Alexander Baillie and the Cologne
radio orchestra conducted by John Carewe had Enter Spring as
an apt companion and has been deleted - more’s the pity.
The Chandos series’ Oration is played by Alban Gerhardt
and is coupled with other Bridge.
terms of choice if you want two majestic and subtly powerful
works of tragic and even sinister grandeur then this disc
is for you. These are their first ever commercial recordings
and they are by no means uncompetitive in any sense - quite
the contrary. The recordings still sound superb.
notes are by Bridge expert Paul Hindmarsh.
Reviews of other recordings of Bridge on Lyrita
conducts Bridge and Ireland
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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