BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Recorded 19 & 20 September 2001, Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: October 2002
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10012
Duration: 73 minutes
This second volume of Frank Bridge’s complete Orchestral Works bursts in with the glorious Dance Rhapsody – and an immediate bonus in that this version is complete: Nicholas Braithwaites’s 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 Rhapsody’s 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 Debussy’s contemporaneous Jeux. A score I’ve not previously found much in, this performance opens the door with its tangible detail and appreciation of the music’s languor.
Of what might be perceived slighter pieces, the Entr’actes are incidental music composed in 1910 for “The Two Hunchbacks” by Emile Cammaerts. As ever, Bridge’s 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 Bridge’s penchant for writing captivating light music.
The Sea (1911) put Bridge on the map. It’s 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 Handley’s recording of The Sea (also Chandos). While Hickox is very sympathetic, the opening doesn’t quite have the awe that Handley finds. Hickox opts for musical measurement than specific evocation – it’s 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.