WORKS: Concertino for String Octet; Phantasy Sextet; Bridge: String Sextet
PERFORMER: Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9472
Frank Bridge is too often remembered as Benjamin Britten’s teacher rather than as a composer in his own right. The wonderful opening phrase of the Sextet sets the standard for what is undoubtedly a masterpiece, and this eloquent performance states a compelling case, while the recording offers a warm yet clear acoustic.
Like Bridge, Eugene Goossens enjoyed a successful performing career, to the extent that his conducting work restricted his creative life. These pieces reveal a true talent, the faster music exciting in its Stravinskian rhythmic intensity. But it is the tenderness of the slower music which has the greater appeal, not least because of the beautifully refined playing of the Academy. Goossens’s single-movement Phantasy Sextet offers the ingredients of a three-movement piece within a single sweep, an approach which was the brainchild of the chamber music enthusiast Walter Willson Cobbett.
The three Phantasy Trios recorded by Cantamen were the prize winners in Cobbett’s competition of 1907. Cantamen matches the music’s emotional tenor in committed performances, sometimes a little rough at the edges but always nicely shaped. Moeran’s four-movement Trio (1923) has an eloquent slow movement, but in this performance the rhetorical gestures of the opening Allegro become somewhat wearing. Terry Barfoot