Frank Bridge Piano Quintet etc, Dutton Epoch CDLX7254

American Record Guide 2010

This is Dutton’s second program of music by Frank Bridge played by this fine group of British musicians that calls itself the London Bridge Ensemble. The (very appropriate) name certainly provokes an initial smile, but I found myself smiling through the whole program. These are lovely performances of music that Bridge wrote between the glorious British years of 1904 ad 1912, music filled with succulent harmony, transparency, lyricism, light and shadow.

The best known pieces here are the ‘Pensiero’ and the ‘Allegro Appassionato’ for viola and piano, which are given beautiful dark readings by Tom Dunn and Daniel Tong, and the light and lyrical ‘Spring Song’ which is played exquisitely by cellist Kate Gould.

The rest of the music is new to me. The two movements of the violin sonata are wonderful. The piece was left unfinished by Bridge, and Paul Hindmarsh did an excellent job piecing together whatever loose ends it might have had. It all sounds like first-rate Bridge to me, and it is given a sensitive and expressive reading by Tong and
Benjamin Nabarro.

Even though Hindmarsh, in his liner notes, mentions that the piece [piano quintet] is ‘rather unwieldy and lacking the refinement and elegance of his mature chamber works’ I love the over the top romanticism and the beautiful ensemble writing. The London Bridge Ensemble has certainly rendered this piece less unwieldy to my ears.
The string quartet has a completely different texture. It recalls a bit of the Wolf Italian Serenade sometimes, and there are touches that remind me of Dvořák and Borodin. A few piano miniatures complete this very satisfying program.