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British String Quartets - Vol. 3
Frank BRIDGE (1879 – 1941)

String Quartet No. 4 (1937)
Alan BUSH (1900 – 1995)

Suite of Six Op.81 (1975)
Henry PURCELL (1659 – 1695)

Chacony in G minor (c.1690, ed. B. Britten)
Bochmann String Quartet
Recorded: The Downs School, Colwall, Worcs., July 2003 (Bridge, Purcell) and Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, Oxford, October 2003 (Bush)


Bridge’s Third and Fourth String Quartets performed by the Allegri String Quartet (ARGO ZRG 714, published 1973 – n.l.a.) were the first major works of his that I ever heard. They considerably widened my appreciation of his music, which was then little known, but for a few songs and Sir Roger de Coverley which Britten had recorded. They were also of significant importance to those who believed Bridge to be an unjustly neglected major composer whose general currency was as "Britten’s teacher". Since then, I have become an unshakeable supporter of his major late works such as the splendid Second Piano Trio and the powerfully moving Oration. Compared to his predecessor, the Fourth String Quartet displays a greater formal mastery as well as considerable freedom gained from in-depth experience. The idiom, often close to Berg and Schönberg, is remarkably imaginative and harmonically astringent, rather at odds with the current trends prevailing in Britain at that time. Its overtly progressive character undoubtedly caused Bridge’s mature music to be overlooked by some of his contemporaries, except by Britten. It certainly estranged him from some audiences and critics. Since then the true stature of these and other works has been widely acknowledged, thanks to Britten’s efforts and to a number of recordings. The Fourth String Quartet is unquestionably a peak in Bridge’s late output, and possibly one of his finest string quartets. That said, his four string quartets may be regarded, each in its own way, as the culmination of the various stages of Bridge’s musical progress.

I have for many years known and admired Alan Bush’s lovely Suite of Six Op.81 from an old taped performance, and I have long been expecting a commercial recording of this fine piece. It is a more accessible piece than Dialectic Op.15, a considerably more substantial work, for all its concision and tightly-knit argument. The suite, however, is in no way a light work. It too is rather precisely and intricately structured. The six dances are ingeniously woven into a continuous musical structure in which interludes subtly conclude the preceding dance while preparing for the next one. From this one senses a continuously unfolding argument rather than a mere suite of dances. It is a really beautiful piece for which this recording now fills an important gap in Bush’s discography.

Purcell’s Chacony in G minor, in Britten’s edition, is no newcomer to the catalogue. Britten himself recorded it many years ago (if my memory serves me well) in the version for string orchestra. It is a beautiful piece of dignified, noble music, not without greatness.

The Bochmann String Quartet play beautifully throughout, as they did in the earlier instalments of Redcliffe’s ‘British String Quartets’ series (of which this is already Volume 3). This is a most welcome and desirable release that may safely be recommended, the more so since the Bush piece has never been recorded before.

Hubert Culot

see also review by Rob Barnett

MusicWeb Frank Bridge Pages

Redcliffe Recording Catalogue

The newly established Alan Bush Trust website email


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