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Thread: 1.8.2011 - Frank Bridge [REPEAT]

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Chambers View Post
    I've already said this on the What are you listening to now? thread, but I do wish they would get their facts right. Britten wasn't fourteen when he heard Bridge's The Sea in 1924. He was ten. There were very few chances for the child to hear a full orchestra - in fact he may never have heard one before - and he was 'knocked sideways', as he said later.

    I don't know quite what to make of Bridge's music. It doesn't seem to have a factor that makes me say, 'That's Bridge', yet I can't see why it's less well known than, say, RVW. Is it this lack of a unifying factor, or just bad luck and chance?
    Back in the 1950s, Bridge was bracketed by the then musical commentariat with British composers deemed stuck in late 19th century styles - Holbrooke, Bantock, Smythe a.o including Havergal Brian. I think I'm right in thinking Britten's performance of "Enter Spring" at the 1967 Aldeburgh Festival played a large part in getting Bridge reassessed and rehabilitated in terms of his neglected work from the Piano Sonata of 1924 onwards. That fine work - comparable in stature to Bax's 2nd imv but pushing their harmonic universe further out - shocked Bridge's contemporaries and followers and led to marginalisation in the conservative British musical establishment of the 1920s, and Bridge was reduced to having to hustle for conducting work, which had helped keep the wolf at bay. Somehow the composer's close kinship with composers such as Ireland and Bax during the previous decade got forgotten.

    I possess reel-to-reels of broadcasts from that same year of his Piano and Violin Sonata of 1932 and the delightful Divertimenti for wind quintet of 1938; but I don't think it was until the 1980s that the rich vein of his entire creative output was really brought to public attention - by which time Anthony Payne had become a leading champion. Following on from folk music and Renaissance church music Ravel and Stravinsky were the main radicalising influences on British composers in the 1920s - all of these influences touched Bridge; but it was Bartok and the Second Viennese School that showed Bridge the possibility of progressing the chromatic harmonic world shared with "pastoralists" such as Bax towards atonality. This was Bridge's distinguishing characteristic, Mary. Bridge by nature, Bridge by name.

    S-A

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    Thank you, Serial_Apologist. That's very interesting. If I knew more of Bridge's music - I don't know much - would I then be able to find the fingerprint that would enable me to recognise pieces by him I didn't know? I have the same problem with Holst, whereas RVW or Britten are always instantly recognisable.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Chambers View Post
    Thank you, Serial_Apologist. That's very interesting. If I knew more of Bridge's music - I don't know much - would I then be able to find the fingerprint that would enable me to recognise pieces by him I didn't know? I have the same problem with Holst, whereas RVW or Britten are always instantly recognisable.
    Holst had come to my mind earlier as another fine composer whose musical personality is not immediately recognisable. Another such composer is Roussel. I suspect that what all three composers had in common was a restless, exploratory streak that meant that those recurrent traits of harmony, melody and texture that imbue the work of RVW, Elgar, Britten and even (arguably) less significant figures - Delius, Warlock, Ireland, for example - simply didn't have time to get bedded down before their composers moved on to some new approach to composition. Sometimes what connects the work of these mysteriously 'anonymous' composers is not so much what the music sounds like as how it behaves under the surface.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Chambers View Post
    Thank you, Serial_Apologist. That's very interesting. If I knew more of Bridge's music - I don't know much - would I then be able to find the fingerprint that would enable me to recognise pieces by him I didn't know? I have the same problem with Holst, whereas RVW or Britten are always instantly recognisable.
    That is a very difficult question to answer, Mary, calling into question as it does anybody's ability to recognise a particular composer by style. I always confuse works by Haydn and Mozart that I haven't heard before.

    If I were to say that Bridge's later music, from the Piano Sonata onwards, makes a very personal use of bitonality, that might elicit misconstrued comparisons with, say, Koechlin, Himdemith or Milhaud. Many 20th century composers used bitonality and polytonality among other extended compositional techniques as alternatives to the atonality of the Second Viennese School, those following in its 12-tone serial wake, and, say, Varese. With almost all of them while one may find several keys being superimposed or combined simultaneously, there is usually one detectable main key underpinning the musical process in any given passage, and one can usually hear primary modulations going on under the surface that maintain a sense of musical direction in the manner of conventional tonal music, if not actually using conventional forms, eg sonata. This is, people will dispute, a generalisation: one would be hard-put to determine in which "key" the opening movement of Hindemith's 3rd string quartet of 1922 is written, with it's polytonal canonic opening movement. But bitonality in the mature Bridge's case really does serve to break down one's sense of tonal groundedness; it does not result in total atonality - though it comes very close in the second movement of the Fourth String Quartet of 1937/8 - but one senses atonality as a very powerful possible next step. As in the case of several of Bridge's mature comopositions, his characteristic tonal ambiguity serves well to express his uncertainties about so much that had dissolved the illusory feeling of security permeating his and so many other English composers' work pre WW1: Bridge's "Summer" of 1914 was in many ways his own "Lark Ascending"; or maybe a better analogy would be Delius's "In a Summer Garden". It was that Delian/Baxian harmony in the arcadian "Summer" that was to go sour, so to speak; but Bridge didn't eliminate its spirit entirely from is music, and it invests "Enter Spring" with a fantastic, organically expansive euphoria at once ultra-perfumed and teetering on a knife-edge with chaos. The ultra-chromaticism of later Bridge also lends to greater expansiveness in terms of organic development - which he had already demontrated in earlier pieces.

    I hope you'll get a chanced to hear this remarkable work on next Tuesday's prom, Mary. Having heard several disappointing performances, due to slow pacing, I hope the conductor takes account of britten's zestful 1967 Aldeburgh performance.

    To conclude, Bridge did "return" to tonality in late works such as the Divertimenti for Wind Quintet, the overture "Rebus", already heard at the Proms, and the terrifying Adagio for strings for a projected but, tragically, never completed symphony, of 1940. My guess is that this latter was a work of total despair, which would have been costly in terms of the effort to put it down: there is none of the Ireland-like urbanity of "Rebus", nor of its sense of a stylistic summation, but rather of Sysyphus and the boulder.

    S-A

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    Excellent posting, S-A

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roehre View Post
    Excellent posting, S-A
    That's very kind, Roehr. That I have special feelings for Frank Bridge's music must be pretty obvious! Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roehre View Post
    Excellent posting, S-A
    It certainly is! Thank you, S_A. There's plenty for me to consider there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roehre View Post
    Excellent posting, S-A
    WOW what a great post.I love reading some of the stuff you guys put on here it's an education (who needs music books ?)
    I do love Bridge's music too.
    "Music is the best means we have of digesting time".

    W. H. Auden

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    Resuscitating this old thread I have a limited acquaintance with his music but I do find what I have heard compelling . His Oration for example strikes me as a very fine and intensely moving work . An old HMV Greensleeves record with Charles Groves conducting I still treasure for its The Sea and Enter Spring .

    Any other recommended works and recordings ?

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    There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook is a haunting tone poem of nine minutes duration. A poignant oboe theme woven to a backdrop of harp glissandi cloaks the plunge of the stricken maiden in starkly memorable garb. A sombre cello solo section leads a ghostly cortege, before the piece returns to silence.

    Bournemouth Sinfonietta/ Norman del Mar on Chandos.
    Last edited by Sir Velo; 22-02-14 at 15:41.

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