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Frank Bridge - The Complete Works
Compiled and edited by Paul Hindmarsh
Revised edition publ. 2016
272 pp A4 coil bound or pdf ISBN 978-1-5262-0264-2 PHM Publishing
I discovered a copy of the first edition of Paul Hindmarsh’s
book in Ken Spelman’s second-hand book shop in Micklegate, York
in the mid-nineteen-eighties. Until then, I had been unaware of it.
Since purchasing this book some 30 years ago, it has become a constant
source of reference as I have reviewed Bridge’s works for MusicWeb
International and written a number of articles and book reviews. Even
more valuably, it has allowed me to approach my listening to Bridge’s
music in a structured and informed manner. I am sure that many musicians,
musical historians and listeners have also been aided by this book.
So it is fitting that Paul Hindmarsh has chosen to republish this excellent
Thematic Catalogue with the accumulated wisdom of more than
a third of a century of his study of Bridge’s life and works.
In 1970, R.M. Keating majored on ‘The Songs of Frank Bridge’
in his dissertation presented to the University of Texas. It was an
important forerunner of current academic attention. An early popular
study of the composer was Frank Bridge by Anthony Payne, Lewis
Foreman and John Bishop which was published in 1976. This short pamphlet
(50 pages) re-presented Payne’s illustrated account of the music
printed in Tempo (September & December 1973). The catalogue
of works by Foreman was helpful in gaining a bird’s eye view of
the composer’s achievement.
The most significant advance in Bridge studies was the original edition
of this present book, which was published in 1983. Here for the first
time, the composer’s works were listed chronologically, with details
of manuscripts, instrumentation, first performances, bibliographic references
and a commentary on many of the works. There was a chronology of the
composer’s life, a select bibliography and discography, and indices.
It was the first appearance of the ‘H’ (Hindmarsh) numbers
to Bridge’s music. All this has been retained in the new edition.
The following year, Anthony Payne published Frank Bridge: Radical
and Conservative. It was the latest incarnation of his Tempo
articles. In this volume, Payne reassessed the earlier compositions
and found them just as important to the composer’s reputation
as the later ‘radical’ works. It was deemed by Stephen Banfield
as a ‘mature critical survey…a rounded accomplishment from
the best man for the job.’ (Musical Times, April 1986).
The book was reissued in 1999.
In 1991, Karen R. Little presented Frank Bridge: A Bio-Bibliography.
Some of this material was concurrent with Hindmarsh’s Catalogue,
however there were interesting additions. The succinct biographical
chapter is excellent, the discography is extensive (up to 1991) and
there is a comprehensive bibliography with brief précis of articles
and many reviews. It remains a useful adjunct to Hindmarsh’s book.
Other important sources include Trevor Bray’s Frank Bridge:
A Life in Brief, (2004-16) conveniently published online,
Peter Pirie’s early Frank Bridge (1971) and a detailed
study of the early ‘Modern Maritime Pastoral: Wave Deformations
in the Music of Frank Bridge’ by Stephen Downes included in British
Music and Modernism, 1895-1960 (2010).
There are a growing number of dissertations and theses being addressed
to the composer. This includes studies of his piano works, his relationship
with Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, Musical Modernism, and the Late Works
as well Fabian Huss’ detailed examination of the chamber music
In 2015, Huss published his monograph on The Music of Frank Bridge
(Boydell Press, 2015 - review)
which for the first time set the music into the various contexts implied
by romanticism, musical modernism, British pastoral and the composer’s
own personal development as a man and a musician.
I turn now to the new edition of Frank Bridge: The Complete Works
– Portraits of an English Composer in his time with full Thematic
Catalogue of Works (1900-1941). After the usual preface and acknowledgements,
there is an extremely helpful (and expanded) timeline. For example,
a century ago, on 13 March 1916, Frank Bridge conducted the first performance
of his tone poem Summer at one of Beecham’s Philharmonic
Society Concerts. It is an excellent resource for contextualising Bridge’s
The first section of the book features six important essays by a diverse
group of writers. These include the excellent ‘Biographical Sketch:
Seeds of Discontent’ by Paul Hindmarsh. Part of this was originally
published in the Musical Times in 1991. This is followed by
a paper penned by Ivor James, friend of the composer and excellent cellist.
Daphne Oliver, based her notes for ‘Memories of a Unique Friendship’
on the recollections of Bridge’s companion Marjorie Fass. The
redoubtable critic Edwin Evans wrote a series of articles for the Musical
Times after the First World War examining ‘Modern British
Composers.’ Frank Bridge was the first to be discussed. A rare
interview between the composer and P.J.Nolan was originally published
in Musical America (17 November 1923). It makes fascinating
reading, as Bridge was reticent in talking about his work. Lastly, the
finely stated obituary by Herbert Howells which appeared in Music
and Letters (July 1941) examines the crisis in style between the
first (early) and second (late) Bridge.
The thematic catalogue itself includes a general introduction outlining
the structure of the entries. This is followed by details of previously
produced lists of Bridge’s music, including those in the standard
reference works such as Grove’s and the unpublished hand-list
in the Royal College of Music produced by Dr Peter Horton. A summary
of the location of manuscripts and sketches are given as well as a list
of works where the holograph has been lost. An important section for
students of Bridge’s music is the location of his considerable
body of correspondence.
The entries for the Thematic Catalogue are presented chronologically,
beginning with H.1 which is the lost Trio in D minor composed in 1900.
The last composition is H.192, the uncompleted Symphony for string orchestra
dated January 1941.
For readers who have not perused the original catalogue, I will describe
a typical entry: in this case for the orchestral tone poem ‘Summer’
H.116. Each work has the relevant ‘H’ (Hindmarsh) number
which has gained acceptance in scholarship. A brief title of the work
is given followed by the orchestration/instrumentation and the playing
instruction, in this case ‘Andante ben moderato – A tempo
ben moderato e tranquillo’. Included in the text is a short extract
prepared from the score of the opening half-dozen bars. This is followed
by information such as the work’s duration, the location of the
autograph manuscript and the MS sketches. The date of composition, where
known, is noted, in this case ‘Sketch written July 1914, score
11th - 22nd April 1915’, at end of full score.’ Details
of publication of the full score are included as well as the availability
of miniature/study scores.
For musicians interested in the works reception history, the date, venue
and performers of the work’s premiere are given. Of great value
are references to a number of contemporary reviews: those for Summer
include notices in the Daily Telegraph, The Detroit Free
Press, The Musical Times, The Sunday Times, The
Times and Musical America. Notices of subsequent concerts
are typically not included. The entry closes with details of
all recordings both historical and currently available. Printed or online
reviews of these recordings are not referenced.
Extremely valuable is Paul Hindmarsh’s personal commentary on
the work, which for Summer include a letter written to Bridge’s
friend Marjorie Fass. This information is the solid basis of any future
discussion of Bridge’s music, the writing of programme notes and
the construction of performance histories.
The thematic catalogue is rounded off with a list of works classified
by genre, a good general bibliography, an index of the titles and first
lines of the works. A general index has been prepared by Paul Hindmarsh
and Jessica Chan. As I examined this book in its .pdf format, searching
was easy using the Adobe search facility. The index will be useful to
those who purchase the spiral bound edition.
I do have a concern about the ‘H’ numbers. Comparing my
1983 edition with the present catalogue, I note that certain numbers
have changed or swapped about. The author has mentioned these in his
introduction, however, I do worry that this could lead to a wee bit
of confusion. It certainly means that Bridge scholars will have to work
from this revised edition! These changes only seem to affect minor works,
so that may mean relatively few essays, liner and programme notes which
have used the ‘H’ numbers will be affected and have become
out of date.
Three things make this revised edition of the catalogue an essential
purchase for all enthusiasts of Frank Bridge’s music. Firstly,
Hindmarsh has updated the commentary on each work to reflect scholarship
and performance since 1983. This has included full details of all recordings
of Bridge’s music up to January 2016. This is important, as there
has been an explosion of CDs released since 1983, including a virtually
complete survey of the orchestral music on Chandos, the complete songs
on Hyperion and two explorations of the piano music. Virtually all the
chamber works have appeared in this time. Additionally, the book features
a number of rare photographs which allow the reader to see Frank Bridge
as a man and not just a composer.
Secondly, a few of Bridge’s manuscripts have come to light since
1983, including the Phantasie in F minor for string quartet (H.55),
the Morçeau Characteristique (H.83) and the finale from ‘A Royal
Night of Variety’ (H.184). There has only been one new discovery
– the song ‘Remembrance’ (H.35).
And lastly, as the author has written much about Frank Bridge over many
years, he has used, to quote him, ‘much of that writing plus an
extensive selection of correspondence by Bridge and his friends and
some significant ‘period’ articles and images to create,
I hope, a more complete picture of Frank Bridge in the context of his
time.’ John France
Print to order - £40.00; Pdf download £30.00