Isolation: 73
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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
Isolation: 74

Britten repaid Bridge's devotion in many ways, not the least being the birthday offerings of cigarettes, tobacco or chocolates. More significantly, however, Britten defended Bridge's music staunchly during the period of its neglect from the 1940s to the 1960s, arranging important performances such as those of the Phantasy Piano Quartet and There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook at the first Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, and the 1967 performances of Enter Spring in London and at the Aldeburgh Festival. But greatest of all was Britten's prodigious development as a composer, celebrated by the dedication of his Op 1, the Sinfonietta (1932) to Bridge (who promptly renamed it the 'Seamfunnyetta'). Six years later, another dedication, that of Britten's Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, made an even deeper impression:

Of course, at first glance I didn't really take it in - or even see clearly - what was in front of my eyes. But I have now. Your title page really touches me. I don't know how to express my appreciation in adequate terms. It is one of the few lovely things that has ever happened to me, and I feel the richer in spirit for it all, including the charming dedication ['to F. B., a tribute with affection and admiration']. Thank you and thank you, Benjie. What a great pleasure! And ain't I glad 'I love the work itself'? I like to think of you just forging ahead and perhaps the most pleasant reflection is that you should have come into my life just when you did. Of course I should say our lives because Ethel and I are united in our devotion to you. God bless you, keep in good health.26

The fact that this set of variations, based on the second of Bridge's Idylls, is actually a comprehensive portrait of Bridge was only discovered when Paul Hindmarsh located the work's annotated score that Britten presented to Bridge in 1938. As noted by Britten, each variation depicts a different aspect of Bridge's personality:

Introduction and Theme     Himself
Adagio     His depth
March     His energy
Romance     His charm
Aria Italiana     His humour
Bourrée Classique     His tradition
Wiener Walzer     His enthusiasm
Moto Perpetuo     His vitality
Funeral March     His sympathy
Chant     His reverence
Fugue and Finale     His skill and our affection 27

Both Britten and Marjorie Fass felt that these annotations should remain on the published score, but Bridge and Ethel were adamant that they were too private in nature and must be removed, which they were.

26 Letter, Frank Bridge to Benjamin Britten, 16 March 1938. See D Mitchell and P Reed, Letters from a Life: Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten, Faber, 1991, Vol 1, p 503.
27 See P Hindmarsh, Frank Bridge: A Thematic Catalogue, Faber, 1983, p 44. The composition sketch contains a slightly different sequence - see D Mitchell and P Reed, Letters from a Life: Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten, Faber, 1991, pp 502-3.