Classical: Review - Bridge to the future

BRIDGE QUARTET WIGMORE HALL LONDON

FRANK BRIDGE can still be called a neglected composer, so in naming themselves after him, the Bridge String Quartet are making a statement. Bridge was Britten's teacher, and a progressive at a time when the musical establishment in this country was insular. He played viola in the first London performance of Debussy's Quartet, and his own Third Quartet of 1926 was given its first performance in Vienna by the Kolisch Quartet who also gave the first performances of a dazzling list of works by Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Bartok.

It doesn't take a chauvinist to judge Bridge worthy of this company, and his Third Quartet was by far the most challenging and masterly work in the Bridge Quartet's Wigmore Hall concert in London on Wednesday. Its first movement is warmly romantic, lyrical and complex, yet it doesn't suggest any other composer - not even Scriabin or Berg, the two names most often invoked in connection with Bridge.

The sophisticated harmonies of the muted middle movement are punctuated by two rising plucked notes on the viola, Bridge's own instrument, which are finally extended to three on the cello, landmarking the musical scenery in a way which is helpful without seeming contrived.

The crowning glory is the final movement, the most powerfully driven and also the most crowded with ideas. And Bridge doesn't allow himself a facile, up-tempo conclusion, but ends with a slow epilogue that is thought- provoking rather than sentimental.

The Bridge Quartet had unearthed from the British Library two surviving movements of a quartet that Delius wrote in 1888, the year he left the Leipzig Conservatory, and this was the European premiere. One movement is slow, with a lilting section briefly recalling Grieg, Delius's mentor. The other is faster - yet not really fast music - and ends with a strange, repeated phrase built up ominously over a trill. Apart from the predominance of triple time, Delius's mature style is nowhere apparent, yet the music is not an academic exercise either.

Twenty eight years later, Delius was no more inclined to write music which gave quartet players any significant amount of independence. Yet his mature String Quartet of 1916 is characteristic of his harmonic subtlety and melodic freshness from the very first bar. The fourth and final movement floats long ribbons of melody in a way that makes a formal conclusion improbable, and the ending is just as strange and unexpected as in the student work.

The Quartet's scherzo and slow movement are both simple tri- partite designs, and Delius gives his superb ear for colour freer play. They are also less thickly written than the outer movements.

As an encore, the Bridge Quartet played Percy Grainger's arrangement of "Molly on the Shore", in which each member enjoyed a solo spot without hogging the limelight.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum