Mrs Coolidge and the American Experience: 47
Site Map
Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Mrs Coolidge and the American Experience: 48

When formulating plans for the American trip, Bridge had written to Mrs Coolidge to advise her that he wanted 'to come to America as a composer and conductor only, and not as an instrumentalist of any sort ... This kind of introduction to the larger musical public might make a real difference to me in the future'.8 For most of the time she took him at his word. However, he was coaxed into joining forces with the Festival Quartet and May Mukle, who had recently arrived form England, in his Sextet, Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht and the Brahms Sextet in G major. Later, he was glad he had refused to be available because one of the festival works was Benjamin Dale's Sextet for six violas, in which Tertis played. Much to Bridge's annoyance, he could hear the rehearsal of the work from Sunrise Cottage:

One viola in hot weather is too much. Consequently six!, are as you can imagine. The most inglorious out-of-tuneness. Pheugh. How damned glad I am that I refused to play. The solo viola is gliding about ... The slides are the prima donna stunt. An apportamento or portamento in front of the note every time. Like a sick sea-gull. Gives me the creeps.9

The performance of Bridge's Sextet was scheduled to take place at the first concert of the festival, held on the afternoon of 27 September (1923) with the London String Quartet, together with Kreiner and Willeke. Rehearsals seemed to be going well, but after the performance Bridge was not satisfied, considering it went rather badly. Both Frank and Ethel had felt peevish earlier during the day, to a certain extent because of pre-concert nerves, but the added tension proved beneficial in that it helped them to think clearly about their situation. According to Ethel:

So many things sicken one, to see how the rich people get 'sucked up' to, made us feel tarred with the same brush, to see us always with Susie must naturally make others feel she's looking after Frank. Then to think she should ask him 'as a favour' to sit with her this afternoon during his 6tet!! Which means sitting up in the very front row right under the players' noses. I'd like to just whisper in your own private ear what I actually heard her say [when we were out motoring] and then you'll understand what I feel - 'I know a lion when I see him'. Golly, I squirmed when I heard it and nearly flung myself out of the motor. Then I continually have to pull myself up by saying, 'Well you are costing her a lot of money you know' and so I sit back and chew the cud a bit harder and Frank and I have a good laugh over it when we get back and I have to say all the nasty things I can so as he shan't think too much of the 'lionizing' and I must say, he's doing his part very well thank you.10

8 Letter, Frank Bridge to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, 29 November 1922.
9 Letter, Frank Bridge to Marjorie Fass, 24 September 1923.
10 Letter, Frank Bridge to Marjorie Fass, 24 September 1923.