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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


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 (2010).

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 musical progress.

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

Format details
Print to order - £40.00; Pdf download £30.00




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