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Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Piano Sonata (1921-24) [15:27]
Three Poems (1913-14); Solitude [2:55]: Ecstasy [4:01]: Sunset [3:09]
The Hour Glass (1919-20): Dusk [3:16]: The Dew Fairy [3:05]: The Midnight Tide [4:23]
Three Lyrics (1921-24): Heart’s Ease [2:14]: Dainty Rogue [1:41]: The Hedgerow [2:53]
Gargoyle (1928) [3:27]
In Autumn (1924): Retrospect [4:34]: Through the Eaves [1:58] Hidden Fires [2:29]
Pascal Sigrist (piano)
rec. May-June 2012, Brussels Conservatory of Music
TALENT DOM 2911 113 [72:58]

Swiss pianist Pascal Sigrist, long resident in Belgium, gets to grips with Frank Bridge’s Sonata for Talent, a label I don’t associate with much work in the British repertoire. That makes it all the more welcome, and so too the fact that Sigrist clearly believes in the music - as well he should.
 
The powerful Sonata, composed over a several-year period after the end of the First World War has fared well on disc whether it’s from Peter Jacobs on Continuum or Mark Bebbington on Somm. Jacobs is often the leanest of the interpreters, tonally speaking, but he is invariably structurally acute. Bebbington tends to evince warmer tonal qualities, and Sigrist marries some of these the British pianists’ better qualities in his performance. Incidentally it would have been grand had Myra Hess, who premiered it, and Alan Bush, who gave the first Berlin performance, been asked to record it on 78.
 
Sigrist treads a fine path between the greater expressivity of Bebbington and the more gauntly austere Jacobs. Sigrist is also significantly more expansive in the opening movement than the more pressing Jacobs. Less jagged, he also makes more of the tolling motifs and perhaps also aligns the word to its Lisztian heritage. The folk song elements that lie within the dissonances and complex chordal sequences are also paid due measure in this perceptive performance. Though the recording is a touch hard, it doesn’t limit admiration for Sigrist’s musical instincts in the Sonata, nor admiration at the intensity and fine tempo decisions that he makes in the succeeding two movements. I note that they are almost identical, architecturally, to those taken by Jacobs, but also that the senses of refinement and despair are beautifully judged in the finale.
 
In the remainder of this recital, recorded in the Brussels Conservatory of Music in May and June of 2012, Sigrist explores Bridge the inheritor. He is certainly, as so often noted, an outward-looking composer for a British musician of the time. Like another such, the conductor Henry Wood, his glance took in Russia. Scriabin is a presence in Solitude, the first of the Three Poems as is Hidden Fires, from the collection called In Autumn. The Hour Glass, consisting of three evocatively-titled miniatures, was composed in the wake of the First War and is strongly influenced by Impressionism. The Three Lyrics offer a refuge from the expressive intensity surrounding them; not least in the brief and beautiful Heart’s Ease. Dainty Rogue is a virtuoso-scherzo and provides a good workout for the intrepid pianist. Not published until as late as 1977, Gargoyle is certainly a vivid, briefly atonal experience.
 
Ideally I should have wished for a slightly warmer acoustic, but it suits the unsentimental but intensely argued performances well enough. Inevitably there is overlap in the Sonata. I’ve not yet mentioned Ashley Wass’s Naxos recording which includes The Hour Glass, Three Poems, andThree Lyrics but I’ve yet to audition it. In any case the central focus is the Piano Sonata, seldom recorded, and not often performed in concert recitals either. It’s a major British sonata, and receives a fine reading here.
 
Jonathan Woolf 

 

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