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Bridge • Britten: Lachrymae; Elegy etc

Hélène Clément (viola), *Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Alasdair Beatson (piano) (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Bridge • Britten
Bridge: Cello Sonata; Three Songs*; There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (arr. Britten); Britten: Lachrymae; Elegy
Hélène Clément (viola), *Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Alasdair Beatson (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20247   61:16 mins


The soul of this beautifully constructed recital is the luminous variety Hélène Clément extracts from the 1843 Giussani viola owned by Frank Bridge and passed on to his favourite pupil, Benjamin Britten, as the younger composer sailed for America in 1939. Bridge may have been working on a viola sonata for his own instrument towards the end of his life, but none exists; little adaptation was needed of his wartime Cello Sonata, though the timbre is clear-etched rather than deep and resonant. The work sounds as if it wants to break free of its conventionally late-Romantic first movement, but doesn’t know where to go; in a neat symmetry, the real masterpiece, Britten’s Lachrymae of 1950, reveals the Dowland song which is its bedrock only at the very end.

Two elegies flank three songs. Clément assumes a ghost voice at the start and end of There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, Bridge’s intense 1927 Ophelia fantasy for orchestra arranged by Britten for viola and piano; Alasdair Beatson is as fine-tuned to his partner as he is in the crisp/magical chords of Lachrymae. And Britten’s early Elegy sounds deeply felt in this performance, precocious for a 16-year-old (but traumas endured at Gresham’s School may be the reason). Sarah Connolly more than gilds the lily as a third voice, the one with words, in Bridge’s early settings of Arnold, Heine and Shelley; the anguished overlapping of mezzo and viola at the climax of  ‘Where is it that our soul doth go?’ is one of many revelations on the disc.


David Nice