Bridge: The Music of Frank Bridge (CD review)

Carol Rosenberger, piano; Constantine Orbelian, Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Delos DE 3263.

For the last quarter century, one of my favorite albums for pure relaxation has been EMI's recording of English composer, conductor, and violinist Frank Bridge's The Sea, among other short works with Sir Charles Groves and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. I mention this at the start because it may represent a lot people's introduction to Bridge's pastoral music. For more of the same, this 2001 Delos album with Constantine Orbelian and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra offers three lesser-known pieces by the composer. Although they are not in the same league as the works on the EMI disc, they do demonstrate the innate sweetness of Bridge's touch.

The highlight of this Delos disc is a suite of four short pieces arranged for string orchestra called, appropriately, Four Pieces for String Orchestra. Bridge originally wrote the pieces as separate items, and Paul Hindmarsh assembled them for the suite we have here. The music makes for a wonderfully entertaining and soothing combination of sounds. The central Waltz is slightly macabre in tone but has a lovely lilt, and the closing Scherzo is vibrant and amusing.

Constantine Orbelian
On either side of the Four Pieces we find the lovely Chamber Concerto for piano and orchestra (arranged by Orbelian) and Three Idylls. Bridge reworked the concerto from several of his other chamber compositions and published it in various forms from 1904 to 1912, presumably the final version as performed here. It hasn't quite the energy or the originality of the Four Pieces but still makes for easy, casual listening. The Three Idylls are altogether more somber but eventually blossom into a stirring climax.

Maestro Orbelian leads with a light, fluid touch; the Moscow players give him a comfortable, almost cushy response; and Ms. Rosenberger plays with an accomplished grace. The whole affair sounds very much in the English pastoral style despite the ensemble itself not being English.

Delos engineer John Eargle did up the audio in a process the company called VR, Virtual Reality, meaning the listener can play it back in the surround mode with subtle rear-channel effects added. However, in ordinary two-channel stereo it sounds just fine, if a bit thick around the middle. Interestingly, I found the larger orchestra on the aforementioned EMI disc more transparent than this smaller chamber group. But I suppose the added warmth afforded by the VR environment does contribute to the amiable mood of the music.

I wish someone would have told Delos to do something about their clunky art design, though. Their front cover and rear print layout here are unappealing, and for those of us who like to linger over the artwork, they do little to complement the comfortable atmosphere created by the music.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa