Bridge: The Hour Glass; Three Poems; A Fairy-Tale; Three Pieces; Three Lyrics; In Autumn

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bridge
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Piano Music, vol. 1
WORKS: The Hour Glass; Three Poems; A Fairy-Tale; Three Pieces; Three Lyrics; In Autumn
PERFORMER: Ashley Wass, (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557842
This first disc in what is promised as a complete Frank Bridge piano music from Ashley Wass arrives 15 years after Peter Jacobs’s pioneering and still excellent-sounding three-CD series from Continuum (currently unavailable). Jacobs produced varied programmes ranging widely in time through Bridge’s output and with strong contrasts of technique and character. Wass’s selection here has little of Bridge the salonista and concentrates largely on the fragile, enigmatic, middle- (or perhaps early-late?) period Bridge, whose chromaticism intensified with his introspection. The effect overall is rather depressively sombre, but certainly such pieces as the Three Poems, In Autumn and The Hour Glass Suite retain their fascination, their crepuscular moods not like anything else in the British piano music of their time.

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Wass plays with identification and sensitivity, with a delicate touch and resourceful use of pedal to create atmosphere, though on occasion I find him a little squarer and less intensely expressive than Jacobs. He brings out very well Bridge’s pianistic debt to Ravel: patent in the charming Fairy Tale suite (a pleasant foil to the bulk of the disc) with its debts to Ma Mère l’oye, less obvious but no less strong in some of the more radical later pieces, where the French master’s ‘Noctuelles’ and Gaspard were clearly influential in the formation of Bridge’s highly personal language. Bridge enthusiasts need not hesitate, and it will be interesting in due course to hear Wass in the great Sonata and some of the other more substantial items like the Dramatic Fantasia.

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Calum MacDonald