Personalities and the Piano Sonata: 34
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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Personalities and the Piano Sonata: 35

This was one facet of Bridge's personality; another was more problematic. Bridge was, as we have seen, an exceptionally talented all-round musician, excelling at performance, conducting and composing. But this facility, born of innate musical gifts and sheer hard work, did not always lead to happiness, either in himself or in others. Ivor James explains:

He had an exceptional sense of standard ... [which] made him intensely impatient of any shortcomings in others, either actual or imaginary, and being a bundle of sensitiveness, out would come some remark which probably the players would resent. If only they could have understood that it was impossible for Bridge to wrap his pills in sugar, his recognition as a really fine conductor would have been assured.6

Bridge's contempt for orchestral players, especially the strings, was well-known. After a performance of Wagner's Die Walküre at Covent Garden in 1927, he commented:

Deep in me I know that there are too many instrumentalists in our orchestras who are indifferent to music. They have no musical faith whatsoever, but are merely labourers. They are even dishonest traders into the bargain. Willingly giving second best when paid for their first. The opening last night was awful. The Brass - when they came in - just blowing anyhow, only half sure they were right and some quite wrong ... I know why the poor devil of a conductor started the 'Ride' that much too fast and which couldn't be maintained when the subject was announced - awful feeling that when the pulse was changed - it was because he tried to get some kind of vitality into the playing. Unfortunately speed doesn't do it, but one's instinct is to do something to galvanize the players into living organisms.7

Bridge's forthright attempts to achieve this brought him enemies.

6 I James, Obituary, Royal College of Music Magazine, Vol 37, No 1, 1941, p 23.
7 Letter, Frank Bridge to Marjorie Fass, 24 May 1927.