Personalities and the Piano Sonata: 41
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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Personalities and the Piano Sonata: 42

Certainly the Piano Sonata annoyed the Times critic at another early performance of the work in the Wigmore Hall, given two years later, on 1 December 1927, with Alan Bush as the pianist. The critic's report of the sonata concluded ominously with the following: 'At the end of it we felt we had never heard so great an expenditure of notes to so little purpose'.19 On the other hand, a review in the Manchester Guardian showed more sympathy:

[In comparison with Irelands's Piano Sonata,] the Bridge Sonata, though different to the point of antithesis, runs it fairly close in quality. In some respects it may even score a higher number of points. Mr Frank Bridge is more preoccupied with researches into new problems of sound, which lead him to a whole series of fascinating discoveries in the matter of harmony and rhythm ... Mr Bridge has the more cosmopolitan culture, the wider sympathies of the eclectic, the more exclusively artistic temperament.' 20

Bridge was at the performance and, sensing in Bush a kindred spirit, introduced himself. Bush had included in his programme the two pieces In Autumn (1924), and Bridge felt that these had been played exactly as he imagined they should go, but with the sonata he wasn't quite so convinced.21 Bush also performed the sonata in Germany for the first time at a concert in Berlin on 29 January 1931, at the Singakademie, but the reception was not in general very favourable; one critic considered the sonata as being written in an 'aharmonious, overheated style, lacking in artistic balance'.22

However, it was the thoughtful reaction of Ferdinand Speyer that gave Bridge most pleasure:

How to thank you for your letter - or to say how much it warms my heart - well, it is a sheer impossibility. That you should have had the interest, quite apart from friendship, to acquaint yourself with the 'Sonata' in all its wanderings, is one of the most cheering things I have experienced for many a long day. And, apart from a very few souls - who regard the work as I do, because they saw it grow through two or three whole years - you are the only one who has had the initiative to unravel it and to have written me an intelligent appreciation of it. If, after having wrestled with it, you had hated it, and then written at such length, I should have prized your considered condemnation whole-heartedly, and been quite proud of having stimulated your critical faculty. But - after your letter - well, thank you Ferdy, I am still on some queer outlandish spot but now I have the added satisfaction of knowing that you, at least, know the address and can talk about my garden. It helps mightily. Thank you again ... whatever future the 'Sonata' has, it can only be a rough journey over crags and crevasses. I am not sure that it is not already in the first crevasse.

And you will laugh when I tell you that at the outset I had intended writing something that could be played - and comfortably played - by any pianist with an average technique! 23

19 The Times, 2 December 1927.
20 Manchester Guardian, 2 December 1927.
21 Interview, Alan Bush with Trevor Bray, 6 September 1976.
22 Allgemeine Musikzeitung, 6 February 1931.
23 Letter, Frank Bridge to Ferdinand Speyer, 25 January 1926.