Suite for Strings
Two Songs of Robert Bridges
Two Intermezzi from Threads
Two Old English Songs
Valse Intermezzo à cordes
Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance)
Roderick Williams (baritone)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Recorded on 3 & 4 December 2003 in Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2004
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10246
Duration: 68 minutes
The Suite for Strings is superbly done. Richard Hickox is fully alive to the wide range of moods that make up the four movements. Drawing excellent playing, Hickox catches the rumination and growth of the opening ‘Prelude’, the perkiness and expressive asides of the ‘Intermezzo’, creates a haunting atmosphere for the introspective ‘Nocturne’, and the ‘Finale’ scampers with good humour.
The rest of the CD is of miniatures, each memorable, including a couple of first recordings. Of the latter, the songs include “The Hag” (Robert Herrick), a wild ride, Bridge’s orchestration full of demonic touches, and a thrilling experience. To texts by Robert Bridges, “I praise the tender flower” is a contemplative, lyrical setting, with quiet ardour, which contrasts with the more animated and no less amorous setting of “Thou didst delight my eyes”. It’s hard to believe that these three songs have not been sung for nearly a century! Roderick Williams does them proud.
The Intermezzi from ‘Threads’, music for a comedy by Frank Stayton, was published in scoring for ‘theatre orchestra’; the yearning first Intermezzo contrasts with the skittish second, a delightful ‘light’ waltz. For similar scoring is Two Entr’actes. The first, ‘Rosemary’, is a tenderly expressive creation that grows in wonderment before returning to nostalgia; the ‘Canzonetta’ that follows is strangely gawky in places and colourfully scored to match its Mediterranean inspiration.
The remaining pieces are for strings. Two Old English Songs consists of the heartfelt ‘Sally in Our Alley’, devastatingly beautiful, so imaginatively arranged, and eloquently performed here. Second is the familiar melody of ‘Cherry Ripe’, merely hinted at for a while as Bridge enjoys decorating the tune’s outline. The Valse Intermezzo is courtly and refined, and, despite the charm, maybe a little long. Todessehnsucht is Bridge’s sonorous and deeply felt arrangement of Bach’s ‘Komm süsser Tod’ (BWV478), while the lively dance, Sir Roger de Coverley, is given with buoyancy and athleticism (if without quite erasing memories of the versions by Boult and Britten). Hickox has recorded the full-orchestra version of Sir Roger on Volume 3 of Chandos’s admirable series.
Suite aside, this disc of Bridge off-cuts adds up to a substantial and worthwhile collection.