There is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook
Vignettes de danse
Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance) Version for Large Orchestra
* Howard Shelley (piano)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Recorded in Brangwyn Hall, Swansea November 2000 (Sir Roger) and November 2002
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2003
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10112
Duration: 70 minutes
The third volume of this invaluable series begins with the splendour of the 1911 Coronation March, which could be termed Elgarian – unmistakably British – and which fascinatingly anticipates Walton’s swinging attempts at musical pageant. However, Frank Bridge wasn’t formally commissioned for this Georgian entrée; he entered a competition, no prize was awarded, and that was that. Was it ever performed until this first recording?
The March is a splendid ’find’. However, the ’real’ Bridge is to be found in the very beautiful, idyllic, if shadowy Summer – ravishing music formally controlled yet so spontaneous and evocative. The rhapsodising continues with Phantasm, for piano and orchestra, a haunted landscape, a remarkably developmental piece of mood-change – of bizarre, fierce and otherworldly illusions. The influence of European progressiveness is manifest. Howard Shelley gives a sensitive and coruscating account of the solo part.
This CD is thoughtfully laid out. Phantasm is pivotal and comes between the light and shade of Summer and the mysterious wafting of There is a Willow, a strangely beautiful impressionistic masterpiece. After that, some of Bridge’s lovely light music comes as relief and as a reminder of Bridge’s craft in this area; these are delightful orchestrations from 1938 (seven years after Phantasm) of earlier piano works. The three Vignettes are, by turns, jaunty, exotic, and energetic and seductive.
Like the royal ritual opening the disc, the dance music that ends it is a premiere recording. Sir Roger de Coverley is well known in its string orchestra version, as recorded by Boult and Britten; this extension to full orchestra is of pointillist organisation; and, naturally, is more eventful in possibilities of scoring and decoration.
With splendid performances and sound, this release is another winner. Bring on Volume 4!