Earning a Living: 13
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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Earning a Living: 14

At the same time as Bridge was gaining a reputation as one of the leading young viola players, his achievements as a conductor were making a considerable impression. His early experience of conducting his father's orchestra put him in good stead when he was allowed to conduct the first performances of his Berceuse and The Hag at the College, and he continued to conduct performances of his own orchestral works there after his student days. Other opportunities arose. Soon after the foundation of the New Symphony Orchestra in 1905, he was invited to conduct its repertory rehearsals. For Marie Brema's season of opera in English at the Savoy Theatre in 1910-11, he was made the principal conductor. The repertoire included Handel's L'Allegro, il Pensieroso ed il Moderato treated as a series of 'living pictures' on stage, with the singers out of sight in the pit; a translated version of Emile Cammaert's fairy-tale play The Two Hunchbacks, for which Bridge wrote the incidental music; Wedding Bells and La Pompadour by the Hungarian composer Emanuel Moór; and Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice, Brema singing the title role of Orpheus. According to the Times critic, Bridge conducted 'in first-rate style, and the whole performance went remarkably smoothly'.8 Further experience in opera came in 1913, when Bridge conducted during the Raymond Rôze season at Covent Garden. He directed performances of Wagner's Tannhäuser and Hänsel und Gretel by Humperdinck, but with less successful results; in Tannhäuser, Bridge 'rather succumbed to the manifold difficulties of directing a much "cued" opera such as this'.9

All these activities complemented Bridge's most important role as composer, the years 1903-13 being the most prolific of his career. There are many songs and keyboard pieces, and a significant group of both orchestral and chamber works. Some of these compositions were written with competitions in mind. While at College, Bridge had already composed a Coronation March for a competition sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Musicians to celebrate the accession of King Edward VII in 1901, and three years later, in response to a competition announced by the Musical Times, he submitted a part-song, Music When Soft Voices Die. Neither work was successful. Nor was a further march composed in 1911 for George V's coronation; the envelope containing the returned manuscript has 'damn' scrawed across it in large blue letters!

8 The Times, 16 November 1910.
9 Musical Times, December 1913, p 806.