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Track(s) taken from CDA68003

Phantasy Piano Quartet in F sharp minor

completed in June 1910; first performed by the Henkel Piano Quartet in 1911; commissioned by Walter Wilson Cobbett

The Nash Ensemble
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: October 2012
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Rachel Smith
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: October 2013
Total duration: 12 minutes 48 seconds

Cover artwork: Chalk Paths by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

The Dartington Piano Trio, Patrick Ireland (viola)


'Paul Watkins delivers lovely, fluent melodic lines in the Cello Sonata … the rarity here is the Violin Sonata … it comes across with impassioned climaxes from Marianne Thorsen and Ian Brown. There are authoritative notes from Paul Hindmarsh, and the Hyperion recorded quality is a dream' (Gramophone)

'A beautifully played and thoughtfully programmed disc … includes the superb Violin Sonata of 1932, for which rival versions are still few and far between … this is an example of Bridge's high maturity, chromatically expanded in tonality and simultaneously dense and subtle in its motivic working. Marianne Thorsen's interpretation with Ian Brown seems to me absolutely exemplary' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This Nash Ensemble programme identifies a master of chamber music and a composer of fearless individuality' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The Violin Sonata is a work of profound seriousness and the very fine performance by Marianne Thorsen and Ian Brown makes the strongest possible case for it … this new Nash Ensemble account [of the Phantasy Piano Quartet] is warm-hearted, imaginatively nuanced and revealing that Bridge's musical language always had a European rather than a specifically British flavour … this is a most eloquently and beautifully controlled performance [of the Cello Sonata] … in short, this is an uncommonly fine record of Bridge, superbly recorded and enhanced by Hindmarsh's authoritative notes' (International Record Review)

'This generously-filled collection of chamber works provides a summary of the stages in the musical life of Frank Bridge—the Romantic, the folksong arranger and the austere … the members of the Nash Ensemble, in various combinations here, excel, with Ian Brown’s contribution at the piano worthy of particular note' (MusicWeb International)» More

'A splendid album … one could not imagine [the Phantasy Piano Quartet] receiving a a more potent performance than this—understandable when the string players alongside pianist Ian Brown include violist Lawrence Power and cellist Paul Watkins' (The New Zealand Herald)
Bridge’s Phantasy Piano Quartet in F sharp minor built on his success in the first two of Walter Wilson Cobbett’s Phantasie competitions, promoted under the auspices of The Worshipful Company of Musicians. These competitions were a major stepping stone to his wider recognition as a composer. The archaic spelling reflected Cobbett’s intention of establishing a new British chamber music genre, combining the ingredients of a standard chamber work into a single span, that would pay homage to the Fantasies and Fancies for viols that flourished in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. In 1905 Bridge was runner-up in the first competition, with a Phantasie for string quartet, and he won the second in 1907, with his Phantasie in C minor for piano trio. A few years later, in 1910, Bridge was one of a group of eleven British composers Cobbett commissioned to write a chamber music Phantasy: among them, Vaughan Williams contributed a Phantasy Quintet for strings, and Bridge the Phantasy Piano Quartet.

From his earliest student efforts, Bridge had employed cyclic forms in his chamber music, ensuring that his main themes and melodies enjoyed a close family likeness across each movement. In his Cobbett Phantasies he went a step further, refining an ‘arch form’ in which all the musical ideas derived from a single source. In this way he was able to replace the conventional development section of the classical sonata form, in which he had been trained under Stanford, with contrasting but related episodes—mirroring the slow movement and scherzo elements one would find in a larger multi-movement chamber work. This Cobbett-inspired approach to constructing single movements and complete works stayed with Bridge throughout his career, reaching its most expansive form in the cello concerto Oration.

While the three early Phantasies are uncomplicated in their design, the Phantasy Piano Quartet, completed in June 1910, is the most effective, revealing Bridge’s early style at its most fluent. Writing in the 1948 Aldeburgh Festival programme book, Benjamin Britten revealed the essence of this work perfectly: ‘Sonorous yet lucid, with clear, clean lines, grateful to listen to and to play. It is the music of a practical musician, brought up in German orthodoxy, but who loved French romanticism and conception of sound—Brahms happily tempered with Fauré.’ All the musical ideas spring from the passionate opening flourish. The first section (Andante con moto) flows with Gallic grace, rather like a Barcarolle. There follows a fleet-footed scherzo (Allegro vivace), with a contrasting song-like trio section that looks back to the opening ideas. A short recitative-like passage then leads seamlessly back to the reprise, which opens out into an impassioned climax before dying away to what Britten describes as ‘a short coda which suggests the deep red afterglow of a sunset’.

from notes by Paul Hindmarsh © 2013

Other albums featuring this work

Bridge: Piano Trios & Phantasy Quartet
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