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Bridge - Piano Quintet, String Quartet & Idylls
Frank Bridge is one of those composers who has been generally dismissed for his ‘Englishness’ and is probably remembered best today as the teacher of Benjamin Britten. But this disc of chamber music will radically change this appraisal. It particularly reveals Bridge’s strong French influence, the dance-like quality of his writing darkened with a brooding inspiration, and the music’s dramatic and emotional heart. Three important and very different works are collected here: the elegant early Idylls, the ambitious Piano Quintet and the extraordinary String Quartet No 4, Bridge’s last chamber work, written during a period of near-fatal illness, yet displaying a progressive, forward-looking musical language that shows the great range of this undervalued composer.
We are delighted to welcome the Goldner Quartet back to Hyperion for their second disc. Their first—also featuring pianist Piers Lane—was universally acclaimed as a truly great chamber recording, and has been nominated for a BBC Music Magazine award.
“This is an absolutely splendid disc, with powerful, committed performances that illuminate Frank Bridge's mastery of chamber music in two major scores, early and late, as well as the famous Idylls of 1906: programming that offers a fine introduction to Frank Bridge's astonishing stylistic range.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2009 *****
“These unfailingly sympathetic, flexible and exhilarating assured performances (that of the Quartet, on balance, the finest to date) have been most truthfully captured by the microphones…” Gramophone Magazine, July 2009
“The Goldner Quartet really understand this music and with masterly pianist Piers Lane throw welcome light on a neglected page of British music.” The Observer, 3rd May 2009
“Frank Bridge's comprehensive 1912 revision of his D minor Piano Quintet from seven years before remains the sole comparative dud in his early chamber output – and not even this splendidly articulate rendering from Piers Lane and the Goldners can persuade otherwise. The original work's four movements are condensed to three, its centrepiece a gratefully lyrical amalgam of slow movement and scherzo enclosed within one of Bridge's arch-like 'phantasy'structures. Alas, the opening movement (after a promising start) soon drifts into a worryingly humdrum, sequential lassitude, and the finale fails to provide sufficient ballast to counterbalance what has preceded it.
The Three Idylls of 1906 are an infinitely more enticing proposition – exquisitely crafted, keenly proportioned and supremely touching miniatures for string quartet, the second of which later provided the 23-year-old Britten with the theme for his Op 10 Variations for string orchestra. The Fourth Quartet is utterly different again. Completed in 1937 after a near-fatal bout of bronchitis, this is arguably Bridge's most rivetingly cogent and harmonically bracing statement, evincing a deftness, compassion and unerring intellectual scope that beg comparison with the greatest 20th-century examples in the medium.
These unfailingly sympathetic, flexible and exhilaratingly assured performances have been most truthfully captured. So, despite reservations surrounding the Quintet, this is clearly a release to investigate.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“the performance here has irresistable impetus and responds to the music's rich, lyrical feeling.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
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"Frank Bridge is known almost entirely by his early works such as the Piano Quartet Phantasy. To those who know only this period of his work, the later pieces must seem like those of another composer. The earlier works are tonal, and harmonically direct, the melodies clear and strong, the rhythm if not square, then rather regular. The later works have no clear keys, the melodies have a curious conversation-like character the rhythms are usually irregular, and definite rhythmic patters are rare. But to those familiar with all his works the connection between the two periods is clear — the seed of the later work is in the earlier — stemming from a desire to say more personal and subtler things. They can be difficult at first to follow, apart of course from the invariable fascination of the sound, the conversational melodies can be difficult to recognise, but the drama and tensions (are) easy to feel." Benjamin Britten, 1955
“Frank Bridge's exploratory late chamber works can sound reticent, elusive in performance. Not here: fire, drama and intense fantasy abound, but there's no lack of refined control or shaping intelligence. Excellent recordings, Strongly recommended.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2008 *****
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“Bridge's glorious Second Quartet, written in 1915 and winner of that year's Cobbett Prize, is arguably his first true chamber masterwork, superbly realised on every level (the finale is a tour de force of motivic integration) and full of the most engagingly fresh invention and invigorating part-writing. The last of his four quartets (completed in 1937) represents more of a challenge, but strong emotions stir beneath its uncompromising surface.
Once again, the finale proves a fitting summation, and Bridge's technical command of the medium is absolute. Leaner and more 'classically' compact than its towering predecessor from 1926, this searching score will afford the patient listener plentiful long-term rewards.
The Brindisi Quartet's coupling has served us handsomely over the past dozen years but must now yield to this Naxos release. These are exemplary, scrupulously prepared readings from the Magginis, who play with unquenchable fire, keen intelligence and immaculate polish throughout. Joined by the admirable Martin Roscoe, they also offer a considerable bonus in the shape of the lovely Phantasy Piano Quartet of 1909-10.
With vividly realistic, beautifully balanced sound from the experienced Walton/Thomason production-team and succinct annotation by Andrew Burn, this is an unmissable disc.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“The emotions come across strongly, though without sacrificing either Bridge's subtlety or his intellectual strength. Bridge remains an introvert, but it's still extraordinary how much of his complex musical personality the Maggini persuades him to reveal in these highly recommendable performances.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2005 *****
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