BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Recorded 19 & 20 September 2001, Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10012 Duration: 73 minutes Reviewed: October 2002
Frank Bridge 2
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
This second volume of Frank Bridges complete Orchestral Works bursts in with the glorious Dance Rhapsody and an immediate bonus in that this version is complete: Nicholas Braithwaitess Lyrita LP of it (SRCS 114) acknowledged a cut (probably blue-pencilled by the composer). This 20-minute work alternates grand gestures with more intimate vignette-like sections some are balletic, some have a hint of Tchaikovsky, and none the worse for that. Dance Rhapsody is, in short, a thrilling work of great charm, lyricism and energy.
The Rhapsodys counterpart, Dance Poem, is from five years later (1913), and is more exotic and elusive. Within exacting structural tightness, Bridge evolves freer musical expression and some very imaginative orchestration that owes not a little to Debussys contemporaneous Jeux. A score Ive not previously found much in, this performance opens the door with its tangible detail and appreciation of the musics languor.
Of what might be perceived slighter pieces, the Entractes are incidental music composed in 1910 for The Two Hunchbacks by Emile Cammaerts. As ever, Bridges craftsmanship is impeccable. The five short movements are utterly beguiling, not least the Andantino, which goes straight to the heart. Norse Legend is an orchestration of a violin and piano original and is another example of Bridges penchant for writing captivating light music.
The Sea (1911) put Bridge on the map. Its an ambitious work that paints seas tranquil and turbulent, its motion and grandeur, and must surely have inspired Benjamin Britten (a Bridge pupil) when he composed his Sea Interludes for Peter Grimes. I have in the back of my mind Vernon Handleys recording of The Sea (also Chandos). While Hickox is very sympathetic, the opening doesnt quite have the awe that Handley finds. Hickox opts for musical measurement than specific evocation its good to have the symphonic aspect underlined. There are some tremendous bass drum crescendos in Seascape and the succeeding Sea-Foam glints and darts with relish. Maybe Moonlight could be more ethereal and Storm a tad B-movie in terms of invention less contained.
With wide-ranging and ample recording, and committed performances, this second Bridge CD is as warmly welcomed as Volume 3 is keenly anticipated.