Frank Bridge: Cello Sonata, arr. Hélène Clément, There’s a Willow Grows aslant a Brook, Three Songs, Britten: Elegy, Lachrymae: Hélène Clément, Alasdair Beatson, Sarah Connolly; Chandos
Reviewed 5 October 2022 (★★★★½)
A fantastically realised and extremely imaginative recital tracing the viola within the music of Frank Bridge and his pupil, Benjamin Britten from a transcription of Bridge’s Cello Sonata proper via to Britten’s Lachrymae
The viola is among the many threads that hyperlink Frank Bridge and Benjamin Britten. Bridge had a profession as an expert viola participant earlier than devoting himself solely to composition, while Britten was a eager viola participant as a younger man and Bridge would give Britten his viola when the younger man left for the USA in 1939
But, neither man wrote a significant viola sonata. Regardless of Bridge’s positive sonatas for violin and for cello, there’s a lack of a viola one, while Britten tended to keep away from classical varieties and infrequently wrote sonatas or symphonies.
On this disc from Chandos, viola participant Hélène Clément (who performs within the Doric String Quartet) and pianist Alasdair Beatson discover Britten and Bridge’s music for viola together with her personal transcription of Bridge’s Cello Sonata, to make up the dearth, alongside Britten’s Lachrymae, plus shorter items together with Britten’s association of Bridge’s There’s a Willow Grows aslant a Brook and his Three Songs (with mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly), and Britten’s early Elegy. One other hyperlink is the Clement is enjoying Bridge’s positive 1843 Francesco Guissani viola that he gave to Britten in 1939 and which is now owned by Britten Pears Arts.
We start with Clément’s transcription of Bridge’s Cello Sonata. The sonata has been tailored earlier than, however on this new transcription Clément sticks to the work’s authentic keys. Bridge wrote the sonata between 1913 and 1917, a interval when his type was starting to alter (one thing that’s mirrored within the work). The deliberate four-movement construction developed right into a two-movement one, conflating the central gradual motion and scherzo, and with Bridge giving it an arch-like construction (one thing he favoured) by making the ultimate motion right into a coda reflecting the opening.
The music begins with a way of limitless melody with Clément’s fluid and flowing strategy to the opening. She and Beatson have a really poetic response to the motion’s changeability. Bridge’s music by no means stays nonetheless for lengthy and while there are moments of drama and keenness, it’s the sense of making a magical sound-world that Clément and Beatson actually give to this motion. The second is equally poetic however far darker. Initially somewhat inside, the performers then carry out the vividly edgy parts, but at all times transferring fluidly between moods. Total, Clément and Beatson’s poetic account of the work makes you neglect it wasn’t written for the viola within the first place.
Bridge wrote There’s a Willow Grows aslant a Brook in 1927 for viola and small orchestra, and Britten made this association for viola and piano in 1932 when he was learning the Royal Faculty of Music. Bridge described it as an ‘impression’. The work inhabits a darkish, complicated and tonally elusive world and each performers carry out the work’s darkish depth and spotlight the way in which Bridge’s music of the interval was much more influenced by European tendencies than that of his English contemporaries. It is a finely poetic account of an enchanting quick work. Britten’s association was not carried out till 1988, and it’s a disgrace that it’s not higher recognized.
Bridge’s Three Songs for medium voice, viola and piano, setting texts by Matthew Arnold, Heine (translated by Kathe Freiligrath Kroeke) and Shelley, had been premiered in 1908, and the viola participant on the premiere, Audrey ffolkes, had been a fellow scholar with Bridge on the Royal Faculty of Music. She turned Britten’s viola trainer when he was 10 and was answerable for introducing Britten to Bridge.
In ‘Far, removed from one another’ we are able to take pleasure in the way in which that voice and viola intertwine, with each Connolly and Clément performing with a stunning mixture of ardour and poise. ‘The place is it that our soul doth go?’ is darkish and intense; it receives a considerate efficiency highlighting the sense of the poet exploring his interior world. Lastly, the passionately flowing ‘Music, when delicate voices die’.
Britten’s Elegy for solo viola was written when he was simply 16 and appears to have been written for himself to play. It’s outstanding piece, spare, angular but lyrical.
Britten wrote his Lachrymae: Reflections on a track by John Dowland in 1950 for viola participant William Primrose, solely later arranging the work for viola and small orchestra (a model premiered in 1977 after Britten’s demise). A seamless set of variations on Dowland’s track If my complaints might ardour transfer, the work holds again the work’s theme till the very finish. The sound world is mysterious, the harmonies complicated and elusive. The magical opening is darkish and intense, and all through the tone is veiled and we get atmospheric hints somewhat than one thing direct. The efficiency from Clément and Beatson is mesmerising, holding you in a spell, while each additionally play with actual virtuosity at instances. All through they activate a pin in the case of the music’s changeability, from eerie to suggestive to vigorous. Then on the finish, the sound world fantastically relaxes into the harmonies of Dowland’s authentic.
It is a very imaginative disc that efficiently captures a thread linking Britten and Bridge, and listening to the music’s development from Bridge’s pre-war type to his extra austere, European-influenced late type to Britten’s mature type of the Fifties is totally fascinating and illuminating, highlighting the hyperlinks between the 2. Performances from Clément, Beatson and Connolly are uniformly very good, a extremely beneficial disc.
Frank Bridge (1879-1941), arr. Hélène Clément – Cello Sonata (1913-1917)
Frank Bridge, arr. Benjamin Britten – There’s a Willow grows aslant a Brook (1927)
Frank Bridge – Three Songs (1906-1907)
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) – Elegy (1930)
Benjamin Britten – Lachrymae: Reflections on a Tune of Dowland (1950, revised 1970)
Hélène Clément (viola)
Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano)
Alasdair Beatson (piano)
Recorded Potton Corridor, Suffolk, 18-20 December 2021
CHANDOS CHAN20247 1CD [61:16]
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