Bridge: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3

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LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3
PERFORMER: Bridge Quartet
Frank Bridge seems an even more enigmatic composer than his most famous pupil, Benjamin Britten. The way in which he grafted European influences onto what was essentially a thoroughly English, post-Elgarian style is disconcerting, as if his individual voice was something disposable and infinitely mutable. The two quartets here, confidently projected by the Bridge Quartet, make a telling contrast. The subtly nuanced, unsettled themes of the Second, completed in 1915, has echoes of Faure’ and early Debussy (whose Quartet the composer had premiered in Britain while he was violist in the English String Quartet), while the Third, written 11 years later, shows how much Bridge had absorbed from the Second Viennese School and especially from Berg, though its highly charged chromaticism sometimes seems an applique’ effect, contrived rather than instinctive. Nobody else in Britain, though, was writing such music at that time. Andrew Clements