Bridge: Rebus; Oration (Concerto elegiaco); Allegro moderato; Lament; A Prayer

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Rebus; Oration (Concerto elegiaco); Allegro moderato; Lament; A Prayer
PERFORMER: Alban Gerhardt (cello); BBC National Chorus & Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
I have consistently welcomed Chandos’s Frank Bridge orchestral series, but the impact of this instalment is diminished by the slack, rather inconsequential reading of Rebus. This splendid late overture, very rarely recorded, was far more sharply characterised by Nicholas Braithwaite and the LPO in the days of LP. The restless, inconsolable Allegro moderato, Bridge’s last work and probably intended as part of a symphony for strings – could also do with a tighter focus. But the programme is redeemed by a powerful account of his sole major choral work, A Prayer, and above all by a deeply moving performance of Oration, perhaps the saddest cello concerto ever written. Here the intelligence and flexibility of Alban Gerhardt’s phrasing and the strong emotional charge of his playing count for a lot. Gerhardt’s sensitivity to the subtle gradations of dark timbres that Bridge continually exploits to create an elegiac, phantasmal world of lament make this probably the best yet among the few recordings Oration has ever had. As a meditation on the folly and futility of war, it is anticipated in miniature by the plangent Lament for strings in memory of a child killed in the Lusitania disaster, of which Hickox gives an eloquent account. A mixed addition – with a supreme Oration – to an important series. Calum MacDonald