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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Established: 32

Although Bridge appeared less frequently in public as a violist, he continued to conduct, and, despite never being offered a permanent conducting post, created a considerable reputation for himself. He was adept at coming to grips with a score quickly and quite frequently substituted for indisposed conductors at short notice. For instance, he deputized for both Wood and Raymond Rôze in 1920, conducting the British Symphony Orchestra for the latter in a performance of Rôze's own Poem of Victory, a novelty that Bridge would have had little time to study. Two years later, on 23 February, both Landon Ronald and his replacement, Eugene Goossens, fell ill and Bridge was invited at the last moment to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme was more straightforward this time - Strauss's Don Juan, Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Butterworth's Shropshire Lad - but Bridge must still have viewed the prospect of performance with some trepidation. In the event, the critics were complimentary: 'For though there cannot have been much rehearsing ... the concert was not to be denied real brilliance ... it was a night that Mr Frank Bridge will remember; one also for which he deserves to be held in remembrance'.22

Despite the success of these performances, Bridge came to resent the fact that he was only contacted in an emergency. Moreover, as time wore on he became increasingly disillusioned with the conducting world, and, as the likelihood of his ever gaining a permanent conducting post receded, he developed something of a chip on his shoulder about it. He certainly had strong views as to how orchestras should be run. Writing to Speyer:

I went to the Philharmonic Concert last Monday. Poor Elgar. The orchestra positively scrambled through the symphony [Elgar's Second] as if they had never before seen it. If it had been a work of mine I should have gone home and vowed 'never again without three long rehearsals'. In fact, as I had never heard the work before, I felt quite sick about it. Performances of this kind do far more harm than good.

I am hoping that, after the war, some munition millionaire will put me in charge of a decent orchestra which will be in a position to devote a serious amount of time to rehearsing and knowing-upside-down every blessed thing it performs to the public.

No wonder the public knows so little at a first performance. If a play were produced on the same lines - with the actors half mumbling and shouting their lines, others reading their parts, and some coming on the stage late and missing lines and cues - there wouldn't be a theatre open except the cinema!23

22 Musical Times, April 1922, p 251.
23 Letter, Frank Bridge to Edward Speyer, 30 November 1916.