Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Frank Bridge - Orchestral Works Vol. 3 (Richard Hickox)


Composer: Frank Bridge
  1. Coronation March
  2. Summer, tone poem
  3. Phantasm, rhapsody for piano & orchestra
  4. There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, impression for small orchestra
  5. Vignettes de danse: I. Nicolette
  6. Vignettes de danse: II. Zoraida
  7. Vignettes de danse: III. Carmelita
  8. Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance)

Howard Shelley, piano (3)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox, conductor

Date: 2003
Label: Chandos



Another absorbing Bridge anthology from Hickox includes two disc débuts

Two first recordings frame the third volume in Richard Hickox’s Frank Bridge series: the darkly opulent Coronation March of 1911 swaggers with a glinting defiance – and what a treat to encounter the inventive and witty Sir Roger de Coverley in its alternative guise for full orchestra (the October 1922 première under Henry Wood was a great success). The Vignettes de danse of 1938 stem from a suite for piano that Bridge had sketched 13 years previously after a holiday in the Mediterranean. Immaculately scored for small orchestra, they form a sophisticated 11-minute triptych, whose centrepiece (‘Zoraida’) evinces a sinuous exoticism not far removed from Holst’s Beni Mora or Ibert’s Escales.

In Hickox’s flexible hands, Summer strikes a perceptive balance between idyllic languor and piercing heartache. It’s followed by a long-overdue return to circulation for Phantasm. Completed in 1931, this imposing rhapsody for piano and orchestra inhabits an apprehensive, dream-like world. Howard Shelley is his customarily unruffled self, and Hickox plots a clear-sighted course, though Kathryn Stott and Vernon Handley (Conifer, 1/90 – nla) seem to find more mystery and poetry.

The shadows lengthen further still for There is a willow grows aslant a brook, a poignant, twilit evocation which Hickox drags out to 11'18"; Nicholas Cleobury (Conifer, 9/98 – nla) takes 9'12" and Norman Del Mar 9'19", both without any loss of mournful intensity. It’s the only miscalculation in an otherwise compelling, finely played programme. Once again, Paul Hindmarsh’s authoritative booklet-essay is a boon, as is Chandos’s characteristically ripe sound.

-- Andrew AchenbachGramophone

More reviews:
MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Reviews for whole series:


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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