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I first played the Sonata with a contemporary pianist of his called Ada May Thomas. She told me that during the First World War, when Bridge was writing the slow movement, he was in utter despair over the futility of war and the state of the world generally and would walk round Kensington in the early hours of the morning unable to get any rest or sleep, and that the idea of the slow movement really came into being during that time.
As originally planned the elegiac slow movement and biting scherzo were to be separate and much longer, with an independent finale. Eventually Bridge compressed the elements into a single, intense ‘phantasy-arch’, the principal theme of which derives from the climax of the first movement’s exposition. What Benjamin Britten has referred to as Bridge’s ‘impatience with tonality’ is evident in the yearning chromaticism of the slow section and in the more aggressive bitonal and whole-tone colours in the scherzo section. To balance the two extended movements, Bridge added a lengthy coda, re-working the opening of the first movement in a much leaner and more incisive manner. The Sonata took Bridge four long years to finish and two of his musician friends, the cellist Felix Salmond and pianist Harold Samuel, gave the first performance at London’s Wigmore Hall in 1917.
from notes by Paul Hindmarsh © 2013