Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)

Three Orchestral Full Scores from Faber Music
Frank Bridge
Enter Spring (1927)
70 pages
Frank Bridge
Oration - Concerto Elegiaco (1930)
70 pages
Frank Bridge
Mid of the Night (1903)
104 pages

297 x 210mm

**Mid of the Night and the (soon to be published) Five Entr'actes have never previously been available.**

Ordering details and cost of postage from:-

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With the exception of Pearl and Continuum record companies have only flirted with the recording of the music of Frank Bridge. Among Bridge publishers the counterparts to those two companies is Faber Music. In the past of course Lyrita (a sequence of LPs typically never reissued on CD) and EMI (an outstanding isolated Groves collection).

Bridge alongside Britten and Malcolm Arnold forms one of mainstays of Faber Music's music catalogue. It is apt that Britten and Bridge rub shoulders here. Britten was a pupil of Bridge's. Britten also shared Bridge's pacifism brought about or accentuated by the Great War. Britten was deeply impressed by at least two of Bridge's scores: The Sea (and its influence is patent in the Sea Interludes - from Peter Grimes) and Enter Spring (which I suggest had its effect on the pages of Britten's Spring Symphony). What continues to puzzle me is that Britten did not (as far as I know) champion Oration or Phantasm at Aldeburgh. Oration would have been a natural for Rostropovich and Richter would probably have taken to Phantasm.

The three orchestral scores listed above are in standard format. These three are large size study scores not compressed miniatures. Enter Spring and Oration (with Phantasm for piano and orchestra) represent the peak of Bridge's achievement. The latter two are 9 inches x twelve inches (c. 22cm x 30cm). The very recently issued Symphonic Poem Mid of the Night is 21cm x 28cm. All are limp bound. These will need to be held open rather than allowed to bend flat on a desk or table. All three have been produced with the admirable financial assistance of the Frank Bridge Trust.

Mid of the Night is a 97 page score. It is the only one of he three to sport an introductory note from Bridge expert Paul Hindmarsh. The printing is beautifully clear and should be a great asset later this year (2001). At long last after many a rumour and false start Chandos will be launching their complete edition of the Frank Bridge orchestral music. The first disc in that sequence will include this early tone poem which has been dubbed Mid of the Night to overcome the anonymity of its original title 'Symphonic Poem'. This work was performed only once in Bridge's lifetime. This event took place at the St James's Hall., London on 20 May 1904 with Bridge conducting. Bridge completed this elaborate score during the summer of 1903 after graduation from the Royal College of Music. The title comes from the first line of the poem (presumably Bridge's own work) which prefaces the score - Comes the mid of the night, ends for a while the brooding. In this work, rather as he had in the later but still immature tone poem Isabella Bridge drifted out of the Stanford-Parry focus towards the more instinctive and rhapsodic school of Frederick Corder and the Royal Academy. Paul Hindmarsh's note indicates that the source for the score is an autograph manuscript which forms part of the Bridge MS Collection left to the RCM on the death of Bridge's widow. Hindmarsh points out that the score is coloured by the music of Tchaikovsky. I am expecting the style to be similar or traceable from the 1907 Bridge tone poem Isabella which has been revived by Bela de Csillery with the Kent County Youth Orchestra, Howard Williams and the BBC Northern and the same conductor with the Prospect Music Group Orchestra. I am sure that when we hear this work our pleasure will be greatly assisted by this extremely finely printed score. Definition of the printed music is clear and the printing is a fine black against a matte white paper.

The other two scores have been longer in the Faber catalogue and their prices are more approachable. Oration is marked as having been edited by Paul Hindmarsh as has Mid of the Night. Oration was published in 1979 and Enter Spring in 1977 (contemporaneous with the EMI Groves/RLPO recording and the Proms performance). Both look very good to this day and Faber still have both in stock. Oration and Mid of the Night have protective laminate on their covers whereas Enter Spring is a simple matte surface. The title and font style of all three scores is consistent.

Enter Spring is a superb score, fully mature and challengingly salty. In it Bridge resolves the ecstasy of Summer via the escalated complexity of the Two Jefferies Poems into the powerful ambiguities of Oration and Phantasm. Its uproar and forward thrust, when it comes, is out of the same primer as Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. While parts of it may well be as impressionistic as Bax's Spring Fire, Happy Forest and Nympholept there is a symphonic 'bigness' about this music that eludes Bax (at least in those works). This is truly great music and I still recall the impact of hearing it for the first time when it was conducted by Charles Groves. Oddly enough it was not the famous EMI recording issued in the 1970s but the Proms broadcast with the BBCSO in 1978.

There are a number of compact British works which I associate with symphonic weight and which for me have that inevitability and epic sense. Enter Spring rests in the distinguished company of William Alwyn's Fifth Symphony Hydriotaphia, Constant Lambert's greyly titled Music for Orchestra, Rubbra's Symphony No. 11 and one other Spring work, John Foulds' April-England. When the great swinging Bell of Spring tolls out quietly and then with increasing urgency and clamour we look towards the power of the Russian spring as exemplified by Stravinsky in the Rite. Absolutely stunning music.

Concerto Elegiaco raises expectations of a similarity in mood to the Elgar Cello Concerto completed a decade earlier. The Bridge however weaves anger and negation into the lament for friends and fancies swept away by the Great War. 'Oration' is defined as "a formal speech; a harangue." What sort of oration is the Bridge work? It is in the nature of a noble funeral speech with cross-currents of bitterness and disillusion. The mood is bitter and the stuttering figure given to the cello and echoed in the orchestra sounds like a wormwood fanfare. I remain unclear why Bridge shied away from calling Oration a Cello Concerto (although its subsidiary title is Concerto Elegiaco). Perhaps he wanted to avoid any hint of showy finery or display. The pity however is that the title probably militates against the work's inclusion in concert programmes. This is a tough work. Indeed its companion, Phantasm has slightly more in the way of display than does Oration. Its message however is clear and for once sorrow is not much softened by tears but instead is stiffened by sour protest, nobility and anger. This is very much a work for modern times.

Rob Barnett

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