Mrs Coolidge and the American Experience: 58
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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Mrs Coolidge and the American Experience: 59

Bridge's second visit to America took place during the spring of 1926. He was invited to serve on the jury of the first Coolidge prize competition - he sifted through the scores for a week while staying at a New York hotel - and to attend the Ojai Valley Festival in California, one of the many American organizations to benefit from Mrs Coolidge's support. At first she had hoped that the Third String Quartet might receive its first performance at this festival, but Bridge thought it would be too difficult a work for a provincial audience and, in any case, he was dissatisfied with its current form.35 Instead, the Second String Quartet was given.

On the way to Ojai from New York, with Harold Samuel, who was to play at San Francisco and Ojai, Bridge interrupted the journey to visit the Grand Canyon. It was on this trip that he also experienced his first view of the Pacific, and memories of both these spectacular sights were among those recalled in his letters as long as ten years after the event. Others, less awe-inspiring but remembered with equal warmth, included a dinner in Hollywood and a Mexican hat bought in Ojai.

The discussion as to which ensemble should give the first performance of the Third String Quartet was still unresolved by the summer. The Flonzaley String Quartet had been chosen with the proposed first performance included in Mrs Coolidge's Washington Festival during the autumn. However, the Quartet withdrew after seeing the score. Bridge was natually disappointed but salvaged some comfort from the situation:

So far as any first performance of this work is concerned I feel more than ever that I should be in at the preparation of it, and I don't mind if it waits until next year, so long as I can be in touch with the players. You see, my only reason for being glad that the Flonzaley were to play it was because they spend a lot of time rehearsing, and being free to run over to Switzerland and whip them up into enthusiasm I thought it would be a workable proposition. And I know I can make a less renowned party of instrumentalists achieve this, provided they know they are going to play it somewhere and have adequate time to go into every detail. However, it's for that reason that the 'Pro Arte' during their American Tour would be too rushed to give the work the necessary attention and breathing space to digest it - and I couldn't be there. I wish it were an easy work. It isn't - until everyone concerned is completely at home with the tonality and then the technical difficulties simply disappear, and then I hope there is something left which won't!!36

35 Letter, Frank Bridge to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, 9 March 1926.
36 Letter, Frank Bridge to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, 4 September 1926.