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Violin Sonata

1932; dedicated to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge; first performed by Antonio Brosa and Harold Samuel at the Wigmore Hall, London, on 18 January 1934

As he entered his forties, Bridge worked hard to reinvent himself as a composer and conductor, rather than a professional string player who happened to compose rather well. He struggled to achieve his ambitions immediately after the First World War, but in 1923 financial help from the American patron of music Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, whom Bridge and his wife had got to know through mutual contacts the year before, was to prove the major turning point in his career. Coolidge’s annual cheques (of between £2000 and £2500) enabled Bridge to give up teaching and playing altogether. Thereafter all the chamber music he wrote was dedicated to her, including his Violin Sonata, completed with much effort in 1932. Bridge’s great friends Antonio Brosa (violin) and Harold Samuel (piano) gave the first performance on 18 January 1934 at Wigmore Hall in a Royal Philharmonic Chamber Concert. (An early Violin Sonata in E flat major, started in 1904, exists as a complete first movement and the torso of a second, completed by the present writer.)

Although Bridge was delighted with the efforts of his friends, the critical reception was predictably hostile. The following day, this appeared in The Morning Post: ‘I fear that Mr Frank Bridge’s Sonata, like so much of his music nowadays, proved rather disappointing. It sounded tortured. The attractive personality that the composer used to show in his earlier chamber music seems to have disappeared completely; there is so little spontaneity, so little charm.’ However, at least one critic, in The Musical Times, seemed to appreciate that this new work was a further example of Bridge’s later voice and not some misguided rejection of the romantic lyricism of familiar works like the earlier Phantasy: ‘Frank Bridge’s Sonata proved a vigorous example of its composer’s mature style—very individual, very masterful in its treatment of the material and very effectively written for the instruments. Structurally it is close-packed, containing the essential four movements of cyclic form compressed into one, which, far from sounding rigid, gives an impression of energetic order and freedom.’

The Sonata is full of late Bridge fingerprints: bitter-sweet lyricism, intense contrapuntal underpinning and capricious mood-swings. The short, arresting opening draws the listener in and the subtle thematic cross-referencing unites the whole conception in a typically skilful and understated manner.

from notes by Paul Hindmarsh © 2013


Bridge: Phantasy Piano Quartet & Sonatas
Studio Master: CDA68003Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track-specific metadata for CDA68003 track 8

Recording date
24 October 2012
Recording venue
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Rachel Smith
Recording engineer
David Hinitt
Hyperion usage
  1. Bridge: Phantasy Piano Quartet & Sonatas (CDA68003)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: October 2013
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