Isolation: 66
Site Map
Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Isolation: 67

Bridge's increasingly isolated position arose not only because of his need to pursue the radical nature of his style but also because his appearances in public became less frequent. However, he continued to conduct, although he had to content himself with the usual 'emergency' jobs and guest appearances, the conducting of his own works, and from 1922 the directorship of the Audrey Chapman (later Melville) Orchestra, a largely amateur group of women string players but with professional woodwind and brass. Their 'slum' concerts, as Bridge described them, associated with the Northampton Polytechnic Institute (now part of City University), took place in the poorer suburbs of London such as Finsbury, Clerkenwell and Battersea. Seats were free, and the music performed was introduced in a series of related talks. Bridge admired the players for putting all their energies into their playing - according to him, they had one hundred per cent more vitality than the average professional orchestral player13 - and in turn many of the orchestal members thought highly of Bridge. Veronica Gotch, who led the violas, had this to say:

I was thrilled at meeting him again when I joined the Audrey Chapman Orchestra and even more thrilled when I was asked to lead his violas. I admired him tremendously as a conductor and put down my professional success to his encouragement and teaching. Of all the conductors I have played under I have never enjoyed anything so much as those years before the [Second World] war when he taught me such a lot. I always felt he ought to have been appreciated by more of his fellow musicians.14

It must have given Bridge some comfort, therefore, when he received the following letter from Elgar, one of his greatest fellow musicians:

I have always been regretting that you do not have the chance to conduct more than this heathen and wholly inartistic country (perhaps I should say 'generation'?) permits you. It is a loss to art which many of us feel. I was going to write this before my small internal trouble - but I am [was] reminded of my intention by hearing on the radio your reading of the two movements of the Eroica which filled me with pleasurable and honourable content for which I thank you. P.S. By 'honourable' I meant to convey my satisfaction of your dignified, emotional and 'no trick' reading of it.15

13 Letter, Frank Bridge to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, 14 December 1922. Bridge reported that he worked the players so hard that after each concert they felt like 'wrecks'.
14 Letter, Veronica Gotch to Trevor Bray, 27 July 1976.
15 Letter, Edward Elgar to Frank Bridge, 13 February 1926.