Frank Bridge Piano Quintet etc, Dutton Epoch CDLX7254

Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone 2010

I’d always thought of Bridge’s Piano Quintet (written in 1904-05 and drastically revised in 112) as the solitary failure in his substantial chamber output but, after devouring the London Bridge Ensemble’s heart-warming traversal, I can’t help wondering whether I’ve been unduly hard on the piece in the past. For all the impressive accomplishment displayed by Piers Lane and the Goldner Quartet (an essential acquisition for the stunning account of the masterly Fourth String Quartet alone) the poetry, flexibility and ardour displayed by these gifted players held me captive from first note to last. If you need proof, sample the still, soft heart of the ambitious opening movement (from 7’45” onwards), a passage which in every previous performance I’ve encountered is prone to hang fire but which here acquires a magical sense of wonder. They even manage to make the finale’s integration of earlier material sound inevitable rather than contrived, thus triumphantly vindicating Bridge’s second thoughts.

The remainder of the programme will be doubly appealing for Bridge aficionados, containing as it does the premiere recording of a sonata for violin and piano that the composer started in 1904 but never finished (be broke off half way through the second movement); Benjamin Nabarro plays Paul Hindmarsh’s splendidly idiomatic completion of this appealing torso with ingratiating lustre and subtly shaded tone. Elsewhere, viola player Tom Dunn makes light of the not inconsiderable technical challenges of Pensiero (1905) and Allegro Appassionato (1908) while Kate Gould’s sweetly suing cello in Spring Song (1912) is another treat. In all four pieces, Daniel
Tong tenders immaculate support. The ensemble’s pianist also makes a classy showing in the Thee Sketches (1906), his generous rubato in “rosemary” both apposite and disarming.

Michael Ponder’s sound and balance are beyond reproach and Paul Hindmarsh supplies detailed notes. Don’t hesitate for a moment - and fingers crossed for more Bridge from this exemplary team!