Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Frank Bridge - Orchestral Works Vol. 1 (Richard Hickox)


Composer: Frank Bridge
  1. Enter Spring, rhapsody
  2. Isabella, symphonic poem after John Keats
  3. 2 Poems for Orchestra: 1. Andante moderato e semplice
  4. 2 Poems for Orchestra: 2. Allegro con brio
  5. Mid of the Night, symphonic poem

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox, conductor

Date: 2001
Label: Chandos



An absorbing first volume in Hickox’s new Frank Bridge series for Chandos

Having lavished such sensitive and heartfelt advocacy on Edmund Rubbra‚ Richard Hickox and his admirable BBC National Orchestra of Wales now turn their attention to the output of another largely unsung‚ home­grown master‚ Frank Bridge (1879­1941). Especially valuable here is the passionate‚ scrupulously prepared rendering of Isabella‚ a red­blooded tone­poem very much in the Liszt/Tchaikovsky mould premièred in October 1907 under Sir Henry Wood. Truth to tell‚ I’d forgotten just what a strong piece this is (that ravishing oboe melody representing the eponymous heroine will haunt you for days‚ I promise)‚ and Hickox does it absolutely proud. He also extracts every ounce of eloquence from Mid of the Night (completed in October 1903 and first conducted by the 24­year­old composer the following May). According to annotator Paul Hindmarsh‚ Hickox’s is only the second performance ever of this fascinating discovery‚ a colourful and atmospheric 26­minute essay whose architectural and technical assurance is perhaps not quite matched by a comparable melodic distinction.

The pleasures continue with the delectably resourceful Two Poems of 1915‚ the subtle half­lights and penetrating harmonic scope of the first (to my mind‚ one of the most raptly poignant evocations of nature in all British music) forming a vivid contrast with the joyous clangour and contrapuntal ingenuity of the succeeding scherzo. I have long loved this exquisite diptych‚ and the present affectionate account makes a welcome digital successor to Nicholas Braithwaite’s Lyrita version (1/80 – nla‚ still awaiting transfer to CD). As for the exuberant‚ utterly intoxicating masterpiece that is Enter Spring‚ Hickox’s polished‚ vigorous and bright­eyed conception leaves perhaps an ever­so­slightly literal‚ swagger­free impression by the side of Britten’s riveting interpretation with the New Philharmonia from the 1967 Aldeburgh Festival. Moreover‚ in this same item‚ the last degree of transparency occasionally remains elusive in Chandos’s otherwise characteristically ripe and realistic sound­picture: to cite one example‚ I’d have liked to hear more of the suspended cymbal and bass drum during the climactic statement of the big central processional from fig 30 (11'59").

Tiny quibbles aside‚ this is a very good disc indeed – a fine start to an important project. Further helpings are eagerly awaited.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
MusicWeb International  RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Whole series (six volumes) reviews:


Frank Bridge (26 February 1879 – 10 January 1941) was an English composer, violist and conductor. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London from 1899 to 1903 under Charles Villiers Stanford and others. As a teacher. Bridge is remembered for privately tutoring Benjamin Britten, who later championed his teacher's music. During the war and immediately afterwards Bridge wrote a number of pastoral and elegiac pieces, but after the war his language developed significantly, with more complex, larger works, and more advance harmonic elements and motivic working.


Richard Hickox (5 March 1948 – 23 November 2008) was an English conductor of choral, orchestral and operatic music. He served as Artistic Director of the Northern Sinfonia (1982-1990), Associate Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1985-2008) and Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (2000-2006). His recording repertoire concentrated on British music, in which he made a number of recording premieres for Chandos Records (he made over 280 recordings for this company) and won five Gramophone Awards.


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