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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
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Another testimony to the increasing popularity of Bridge's music can be found in the number of recordings made of it during this period. Bridge himself, however, took part only in a recording of the Phantasy Piano Quartet (on Columbia 946) with the English String Quartet. Other recordings in which Bridge played as a member of the quartet include performances of the scherzos of both Saint-Saëns's Piano Quartet in B flat major and Schumann's Piano Quintet, made in 1917. Mark Hambourg was the pianist and the balance between him and the string players is very much on his side, but Bridge can just be heard playing some repeated notes in the Schumann. Bridge can be heard more clearly in a recording by the English String Quartet of Haydn's String Quartet, Op 64, No 6, issued in 1923 and described in the Gramophone as 'the most delightful piece of chamber music this month'.8 The performance provides a representative example of the quartet's fine playing: the intonation is good, the ensemble rarely ragged. Despite the extensive use of portamento in the slow movement, as was typical at the time, the other three movements do not differ that markedly from performances of these sections of the work today.

Bridge also took part in recordings as a conductor. In 1923-5 he directed performances of Gounod's overture to Mireille, Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Dèfunte and the overture to Hänsel und Gretel by Humperdinck. Of considerable interest too, is his performance of his own works. Sir Roger de Coverley and the second of the Two Poems were coupled on one 78, Bridge conducting the New Queen's Hall Orchestra. He also conducted The Sea with the London Symphony Orchestra on two 78s, but in order to fit the limited time available, a substantial cut was made at the end of the fourth movement, The Storm. In contrast to a more recent recording of the work - for instance, by Sir Charles Groves conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra9 - Bridge is less expansive, taking fewer liberties with the tempo as the music unfolds, although the basic tempos for each movement are similar. It is difficult to judge such a matter as balance because the recording techniques of the time were still somewhat rudimentary and the clarity of the sound varies quite dramatically from one movement to another. None the less, Bridge's prowess as a conductor can be heard in the precise ensemble work of the second movement, Sea-Foam, and the powerful rendering of the slow music of the third, Moonlight. Apparently when the records of The Sea were issued Bridge was very disappointed. In 1932, Britten wanted to buy a set, but Bridge advised to the contrary - each sustained chord at the opening 'wobbled' disastrously, giving a 'woeful' effect.10 He had not been able to listen to any master copies, being in America when these became available (autumn 1923), and consequently the records were issued without his approval.

8 Gramophone, November 1923, p 105.
9 Reissued in CD format: (EMI Classics) CDM 5 66855 2.
10 Letter, Frank Bridge to Benjamin Britten, 9 September 1932.