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Frank BRIDGE (1879-1940)
Quintet for string quartet and piano (1904-05 rev. 1912)
Three Sketches for piano (1906) (April; Rosemary; Valse Capricieuse)
Phantasie in F minor for string quartet (1905)
Pensiero for viola and piano (1905 rev. 1908)
Allegro Appassionato for viola and piano (1908)
Sonata for violin and piano (1904 completed 1996) completed by Paul Hindmarsh
Spring Song, for cello and piano (1912)
London Bridge Ensemble (Daniel Tong (piano); Benjamin Nabarro (violin); Lucy Gould (violin); Tom Dunn (viola); Kate Gould (cello))
rec. Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, 21-23 December 2009
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7254 [76:40]

Experience Classicsonline

In days gone by - the 1970s - Pearl LPs were the leading source of Bridge's chamber music. Yes, there was the classic Argo LP of quartets 3 and 4, the Piano Trio and the Decca LP of Rostropovich in the Cello Sonata. However for breadth of Bridge coverage Pearl, the Bridge Trust, Paul Hindmarsh and the much missed John Bishop and his Thames Publishing were the places to go. In the 1980s Pearl issued a few Bridge CDs but much of its LP heritage remained locked in vinyl.
Lyrita have liberated the Argo recordings but Dutton have taken up the Bridge chamber music banner with a vengeance. Here is the latest disc.
The disc has been assembled with a practised eye to variety and to listening to the disc all through. Michael Ponder's engineering brings the listener front-seat close to the players. The blood-rushing triumphant romance of the Piano Quintet is magnificently put across by London Bridge Ensemble. Much of it was written in the 1900s but having reached a creative impasse he let it fall aside and only finished it in 1912 when according to Paul Hindmarsh a major rewrite was done as well as adding a finale. The work has a towering sense of cohesion. Bridge remonstrates with the listener in the outer movements rather as if he were emulating the stormiest passions of Thuille or Bax in their Piano Quintets. The Adagio has some of the elusive harmonic tang of the later Bridge and the lyricism of early Fauré. After such torrid emotions and tumultuous striving the Three Sketches are charming, shapely and familiar miniatures with a hint of what we later associate with the manner of Mayerl, Chopin and Godowsky. Daniel Tong turns these little lovelies with real sensitivity.
The Phantasie in F minor for string quartet is in three movements or they are so tracked here. It won second prize in Cobbett's 1906 competition. The whole thing is over in ten minutes. The middle episode is a touch sentimental but the outer sections are passionate if nowhere near the conflict and turbulence of the Piano Quintet.
The Pensiero and Allegro Appassionato are for piano and Bridge's own instrument, the viola. It is another one of his small company of affecting Fauré-style miniatures. He wrote similar format works for cello and violin. The Pensiero is sombre and intense. For contrast we have the Allegro Appassionato which is from the same world as the outward flanks of the Piano Quintet.
Paul Hindmarsh - a lifelong advocate and good friend to Bridge's music - completed the Violin Sonata in 1996 from the original materials dating from 1904. It's in two movements and the style here is closer to the Piano Quintet with some superbly tender music and playing. In the first movement Benjamin Nabarro's voluptuous caramel tone and sense of the fragility of this bloom is all-conquering. Many thanks to Mr Hindmarsh for rescuing this music and doing it with such sensitivity. I do not underestimate the dedication required.
We play out with the pleasingly rounded yet superficial 1912 Spring Song for cello and piano.
If you missed the London Bridge ensemble's CD of the Bridge Phantasy Piano Quartet and Phantasie Piano Trio with a number of other rare works then this is the cue to track it down . It's on Dutton CDLX 7205.
Good to see Dutton using that treasure of a recording venue the Wyastone Concert Hall in Monmouth - also the home of Nimbus and Lyrita. I hope we will hear more from there.
Rob Barnett


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