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Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Piano Quintet in D minor, H49a (1904/12) [29:19]
Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970)
Piano Quintet No. 1 (1911?) [37:46]
Raphael Terroni (piano)
Bingham String Quartet
rec. St. Silas the Martyr, Chalk Farm, London, September 1989
NAXOS 8.571355 [67:05]

Frank Bridge holds a firm place in music history as Benjamin Britten's teacher, but he was a noted composer in his own right. His warm, colourful tone-poems, including The Sea and Cherry Ripe, are more cosmopolitan than the standard English-pastoral writing of the time. His Piano Quintet, while engaging, is a very different animal.

After an exploratory introduction, the main Allegro moderato follows, in an undulating 6/8. Transitional harmonies suggest middle-period Debussy, and the movement's "resolution" is oddly unstable. The central movement combines a richly expressive slow movement and an agitated scherzo, with the piano introducing both large sections; the strings return the music to the ruminative mood. Assertive string gestures in octaves launch the closing Allegro energico; the broad second group is calmer, but some nervous, spiky harmonies, very post-Impressionist in spirit, intrude later. Compliments to the players: despite Bridge's startlingly busy piano part - and bravo to the masterly Raphael Terroni - the balances are excellent, with the strings falling into vibrant chords.

Cyril Scott was "rediscovered" in the late 1970s through his transparent, Debussyan piano music. This harmonically similar Piano Quintet has its appealing moments: the strings' hushed frisson at the scherzo's start, and the Finale's two undulating theme-groups. But, as the textures become more complex, the development sections start to wander; given the composer's free-form approach to structure, all the churning becomes a trial. (Some scores can be cogent without following sonata principles - this isn't one of them.) The players, too, sound less convinced: the strings can be edgy - the Adagio's slithering parallel chords sound almost parodistic - and Terroni's big chords don't ring out as well, though his runs are once again vivid and articulate.

The verdict: One quintet is worth getting to know; you can skip the other. It's up to you.

Stephen Francis Vasta

Previous review: Philip Buttall

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