Bridge Elgar Holst

COMPOSERS: Bridge Elgar Holst
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Bridge Elgar Holst
WORKS: Oration
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5763
It’s good to see Frank Bridge’s cello concerto Oration getting so much attention at last – and understanding attention at that. As with the much better known Elgar Concerto, Raphael Wallfisch appears to have thought hard about what Bridge was trying to achieve: both a passionate anti-war statement and a coherent one-movement musical argument. His playing is eloquent and shapely, and he shows a good grasp of how this seemingly episodic structure with its semi-detached epilogue hangs together. Still, cellist Alban Gerhardt (Chandos) is overall more urgent and incisive. In comparison, Wallfisch can seem just a little too relaxed – or maybe dreamy is a better word.

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The Elgar is convincing, too, and in passages like the stringendo molto (‘push forward a lot’) at the heart of the slow movement Wallfisch takes a rather different view (apparently endorsed by Elgar’s own recording) from the revered Jacqueline du Pré/Barbirolli version. Apart from sounding slightly fazed by the three-octave plunge near the end of the scherzo, Wallfisch maintains impressive technical control. He can certainly be forgiven for lingering lovingly over Jonathan del Mar’s editorial correction in the scherzo’s slow cadenza – yes, it is a lot more logical and effective than the printed version. But even if she can be occasionally wayward, du Pré opens up the soul of this Concerto like no other cellist.

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Would she have done the same with Holst’s Invocation had she known it? In Wallfisch’s hands this early, long-forgotten piece is sweetly atmospheric, but it does feel rather pallid beside the Elgar and the Bridge.