The Late Works: 86
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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
The Late Works: 87

Unlike Phantasm, Oration was received with some acclaim. Two distinguished critics recognized in part the work's greatness. Ernest Newman's review in the Sunday Times is worth quoting in some detail because it demonstrates not only his positive attitude towards the work but also highlights the problems Bridge's late style had, even for such an experienced critic as Newman:

Frank Bridge's new Concerto elegiaco ('Oration') for cello and orchestra is not the kind of work that we can expect to grasp in anything like its totality at a first hearing; it may even be that, lacking an inside knowledge of the 'mental images' that have obviously determined the course of it throughout, we shall never be able to see it exactly as the composer saw it, for its abrupt, sometimes spasmodic changes of mood cannot possibly be accounted for on the lines of so-called 'pure' music.

But even at a first hearing it is evident that the work comes from a fine mind, that its departures from the current obvious are not mere pose or eccentricity but the natural expression of a personal way of thinking, and that Bridge is in no doubt whatever either as to what he wants to say or the most direct and convincing way of saying it.

It is hardly likely that the work will ever be a popular 'hit'; but it is certainly a work that musicians would like to hear again.26

Jack Westrup, in the Daily Telegraph, made a useful comparison, linking Oration with Elgar's Cello Concerto, and there is no doubt that, despite the strong contrasts that exist between the two works - Elgar's looking back with regret to the lost world destroyed by the First World War, Bridge's trying to come to terms with the tragedy of that war - Oration is the only British cello concerto of the first half of the twentieth century that can be placed beside Elgar's and not be dwarfed by the comparison. It forms a high point among Bridge's late works.

26 Sunday Times, 18 January 1936. Bridge's comment on this review was: 'For the first time the "great" Ernest Newman has not been destructive, which is all that he is generally'. Letter, Frank Bridge to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, 20 January 1936.