1908 was the year in which Frank Bridge’s two pieces Pensiero
and Allegro appassionato
were first published in a ‘Viola Library’ series edited by Lionel Tertis. Bridge, of course, was himself a fine viola player, and his early fame was as a performer, not as a composer. Rebecca Clarke said of him: ‘He was one of the finest viola players I’ve ever heard. He could have made a career as a fine conductor but couldn’t stand orchestral musicians. He was without doubt the most talented musician I’ve ever met.’ Bridge was a founder member of the English String Quartet with whom he played until 1915, and he was widely admired as a sensitive and skilled performer. It is surprising, therefore, that his enthusiasm for the least-sung member of the string family should not have found its outlet reflected in compositional output. The two pieces recorded here are the only pieces he wrote for the instrument. Which is a pity given the obvious sympathy he shows for its characteristic sound world.
Pensiero and Allegro appassionato make a perfectly balanced pair of pieces, with the first being elegiac in mood and the second more outgoing. Both show Bridge’s mastery of technique and his real feeling for both piano- and string-writing which saw such a flowering in the magnificent cello sonata. Although the Allegro appassionato is very short and concise, it displays Bridge’s flair for the dramatic, and both pieces show his heightening awareness of the power of chromatic harmony which was to become such a feature of his later style exemplified by his piano sonata.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 1994