Lyrita – Frank Bridge (Oration & Phantasm)

0 of 5 stars

Oration – Concerto elegiaco for Cello and Orchestra
Phantasm – Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra

Julian Lloyd Webber (cello)

Peter Wallfisch (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Nicholas Braithwaite

Oration recorded October 1976 in Southwark, London; Phantasm recorded November 1975 in Kingsway Hall, London

Reviewed by: Jimmy Hughes

Reviewed: December 2007
Duration: 59 minutes



When these two performances were released on LP in the late 1970s, they seemed to herald the start of a Frank Bridge revival. Certainly, they were among the first major Bridge recordings since Sir Charles Groves conducted The Sea for EMI.

Cast in eight linked movements, Bridge’s Oration (1930) is a brooding melancholy ‘concerto’ for cello and orchestra. However, it is not a display piece for the instrument. Instead, the music calls for the cello to take a dignified and somewhat restrained role in the proceedings – a bit like Bloch’s Schelomo, but without the orchestral purple passages. The work was completed in 1930 and lasts a little over half-an-hour. Despite some animated orchestral passages, it sounds like a long extended slow movement.

Oration is not an easy piece to assimilate. Its theme is the futility of war, and the music ruminates on this and the horrors of war in a manner that is uncompromising and deeply personal. Julian Lloyd Webbber plays the solo part with considerable technical skill and insight, giving a performance of great passion and dignity.

Phantasm (1931) is described as a Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra. It is cast in a single movement with four linked sections. As the booklet note relates, Phantasm inhabits “a spectral world of dreams and ghastly apparitions”. It seems to move between floating dreamlike states and moments that are nightmarishly animated – and perhaps even a little scary. And while it hardly qualifies as a virtuoso display piece, the music is more outgoing than that of Oration.

Both performances are first rate, and each created a lot of interest when originally released on LP back in the late 1970s. The recorded sound is excellent too: rich, sonorous, and very open, with plenty of detail and good clarity.

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