Bridge did not enter the third competition, for a violin sonata, and then, for a while, Cobbett adopted a new approach. Instead of holding regular competitions, he made direct commissions to young composers of merit. In all, he commissioned twelve works in Phantasy form, Bridge being invited to write one for piano quartet. This was completed in 1910 and at its first performance on 21 January 1911, given at the inaugural concert of the Henkel Piano Quartet, the first English ensemble gathered together specifically to perform piano quartets, it was described as 'a work of singular beauty'.14 Less than a fortnight later a further performance was included as an illustration in Cobbett's talk mentioned above, with Harold Samuel as the pianist, Tommy Morris, Bridge and Cedric Sharpe (cello) as the other performers.
To win prizes in national competitions was encouraging, but an even greater boost to Bridge's morale came from his success in an international competition held in Italy. In 1906 the Accademica Filarmonica at Bologna offered a prize of 1000 lire (then equivalent to £40) for the best string quartet, and, although Bridge's entry, his First String Quartet in E minor, did not win, it was thought worthy of the only mention d'honneur. Unfortunately, the submission of the work led to a frustrating series of events.15 In order to meet the deadline, Bridge had written the work very quickly - in less than a month - and had only enough time to complete one set of parts and one score. These he submitted. However, it then took another two-and-a-half years before he could manage to recover the parts from the Academy, and even then the score had to remain in Bologna until the quartet had been performed there. This was the reason why the first performance of the quartet was delayed, not taking place until 16 June 1909 at the Bechstein Hall, played by the English String Quartet. By then Bridge felt that he had left the quartet far behind him.