WORKS: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1: Enter Spring; Isabella; Two Poems for Orchestra; Mid of the Night
PERFORMER: BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9950
A fascinating, revealing disc – and one which happens to be very enjoyable, too. At the one end of the programme we have Enter Spring, one of the most original and finely executed things in the British orchestral repertoire, in exactly the kind of buoyant, exultant performance it needs. At the other is the 24-year-old Bridge’s first attempt at an orchestral tone poem, Mid of the Night – over-ambitious, overlong, ultimately unconvincing, but equally unmistakably the product of a highly gifted, highly imaginative young talent. It also shows something that the chamber music doesn’t: a Bridge with roots in the programme music of Liszt, Tchaikovsky and perhaps also Richard Strauss, cultivating the grand gesture and a broad narrative sweep. The same roots can be felt in Isabella, composed three years later, and much more satisfying. As with Mid of the Night, this sounds much more like the work of a central European late Romantic than an Englishman in the early days of his country’s musical renaissance – so it wasn’t only the Bridge of the later, modernist chamber works who was open to continental influences. Richard Hickox and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales are first-rate champions in all these pieces (I don’t think I’ve ever found Enter Spring so consistently compelling), and the recordings are every bit as good as the musicianship deserves.