This is a welcome reissue from the British Music Society. The recordings
were originally released on audio cassette in 1990. The Bingham was
formed in 1985 at the Royal Academy of Music and established itself
as one of the leading string quartets in the UK. Founder and leader
Steve Bingham and violist Brenda Stuart who feature on these 1989
recordings still play in the quartet today. Their pianist on this
occasion Raphael Terroni who was renowned for his commitment to British
music sadly died in 2012 - a great loss.
I am always keen to listen to chamber music from such fascinating
English composers as Frank Bridge and Cyril Scott. They were born
in the same year. Bridge’s music was firmly conservative but
Scott was open to European developments. From the 1920s Bridge’s
writing became more progressive; described in some quarters as radical.
By comparison Scott who had studied at the Hoch Conservatory in Germany
was more overtly pioneering as a composer. He was described by Eugene
Goossens as “the father of modern British music.
There are a number of precedents for Bridge and Scott writing their
piano quintets. Both composers would certainly have known those by
Schumann and Brahms, and maybe the Saint-Saëns and the Franck.
In addition Bridge’s composition teacher at the Royal College
of Music, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford had written one to considerable
acclaim in 1886 as had Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a fellow Royal College
of Music student in 1893. It has also been put forward that Joseph
Holbrooke’s Piano Quintet
Op.44 (1904) was a major source of inspiration behind both Bridge
and Scott writing their piano quintets.
Brighton-born composer and violist Frank Bridge is still best known
these days as Britten’s composition teacher rather than for
his own compositions. A distinguished chamber player, Bridge wrote
an especially fine body of chamber music and also works for solo piano,
songs, orchestra, choir and some incidental music. There were no symphonies,
cantatas (excepting A Prayer
), oratorios or ballets but he
did write an opera The
. Bridge seems shamefully neglected yet his
works are heard from time to time. In recent years he has been served
especially well on record by Chandos and Naxos.
Lasting just under thirty minutes to perform here the Piano Quintet
in D minor
was written in 1904/05 as a four movement score. Bridge
revised it extensively in 1912 compressing it into three. The opening
movement surges with the weight of aching passion. The emotion in
the central movement is so intense that it feels as if it might overwhelm
although it is counterbalanced by a central section of darting exuberance.
Within the burning passion of the Finale
: Allegro energico
the players convey an undercurrent of deep anguish.
An alternative account of the Bridge Piano Quintet
the Tippett Quartet with pianist Ashley Wass was recorded in 2009
at London on Naxos 8.572474 (c/w Bax Piano Quintet
). This cannot
quite match the match sheer weight of emotion that the Bingham/Terroni
provide although their playing has greater security of ensemble and
improved string intonation. I found the sound quality of the Bingham/Terroni
account slightly more satisfying than the Tippett Quartet which seemed
exceedingly close and rather fierce in the forte
Incidentally both accounts were recorded at St. Silas the Martyr Church,
Cyril Scott has the Chandos
(no fewer than four discs of his orchestral music) and Dutton
labels in particular to thank for a number of fine recordings
including Dutton’s superb cycle of his piano works as championed
by Leslie De’Ath (CDLX 7150; 7155; 7166; 7224 and 7183) not
to mention Dutton’s CDs of his violin sonatas (CDLX 7200) and
string quartets (CDLX 7138).
Desmond Scott, the composer’s son who runs the Cyril
, informs me that almost all of the major works have
now received recordings including some of the earlier works that Scott
had rejected as immature such as the Symphony No. 1 in G major
from 1899. Future releases on Dutton Epoch are the Piano Concerto
(1900) played by pianist Peter Donohoe, the Cello Concerto
(1902) with Raphael Wallfisch as soloist and the incidental music
to Pelléas and Melisande
played by the BBC Concert Orchestra
conducted by Martin Yates. Still to receive recordings are numerous
songs and a number of choral works notably the substantial secular
oratorio Hymn of Unity
Completed in 1924 it seems that Scott’s Piano Quintet No.
might have originated as early as 1904/05 from a piano sextet.
Dedicated to pianist Evlyn Howard-Jones this considerable score lasts
here almost forty minutes. In this account the opening movement’s
forceful writing includes craggy rhythmic lines and unremittingly
shifting tempi. This is uncompromising music concerned more with mood
than melody. An intensely restless feel imbues the short Scherzo
second movement and the Adagio
is intense and highly unsettling.
Episodes of calm in the Finale
are short-lived. Lyricism often
threatens to break free from the concentrated, weighty and moody writing.
The balance between piano and strings is notoriously difficult to
perfect. On this BMS recording the engineers achieve a most satisfying
result although the intonation of the Bingham string players feels
slightly uncomfortable at times. There is a most agreeable recording
of Scott’s Piano Quintet No. 1
played by the London Piano
Quartet with violinist Marilyn Taylor recorded in 2001 at London on
Epoch CDLX 7116
(c/w Piano Quartet
, Op. 16). Although glowingly
played I didn’t feel that the London Piano Quartet/Taylor quite
generated the amount of passion that I wanted compared to the Bingham/Terroni
This British Music Society disc is a most welcome addition to the
CD catalogue. This is playing that is sincere, vital, passionate and
highly responsive to the demands of these scores.
see also review by John
France (March 2013 Recording of the Month)