Friday, 13 June 2008

Sir Frederick Bridge’s 'Musical Cabby'

Sir Frederick Bridge was born in 1844 and was a well known and respected musical personality in London and the Provinces. He combined composing with writing, conducting and was the organist at Westminster Abbey. At the time of the following anecdote he would be about 61years old – at the height of his fame. It is important to note that Bridge is not in any way being patronising –he is simple a man of his time –and a great one at that.

Sir Frederick Bridge has a ‘Cabman Critic’ who always drives him to the Albert Hall. Cabby does not like Wagner (Hear, Hear! Ed.) finding him too abstruse and mathematical, but apparently likes Perosi [1], a copy of whose “Transfiguration” he lent to the Abbey Organist. Sir Frederick says, “He is one of the most musical men in a humble walk of life that I have ever met, and I am sure that his verdicts on performances will bear favourable comparison with those of most of the professional musical critics of the present day. At any rate, he does not make more mistakes than some of them do, and he is ready to say outright if he likes a thing if it really pleases him.” He is not afraid to criticise his fare’s conducting either, and once objected that the ‘Hallelujah” Chorus was taken too fast. “Fast?” said Sir Frederick, “I didn’t take it too fast.” “Oh yes you did,” said the Cabby, shaking his head gravely, “It may gain in brilliancy by your method, but it loses in majesty.” It seems he does not drive his cab on Sundays, but spends most of the day practising on an organ he has at home. Sir Frederick says: “Since he lent me the score of Perosi’s Oratorio I have always called him Perosi, and this is the name by which he is called by the linkmen [2] at the Albert Hall – only some have contracted it to ‘Rosie.’
Decidedly, my cabman critic is a character. He is to me a constant source of amusement, not unmixed with admiration, for I think it is no small credit to him, that on the uncongenial altitude of the box-seat of a London cab he should be able to cultivate music so successfully.”

Musical News January 1905

[1] Lorenzo Perosi 1872-1956 Italian composer of sacred music.
[2] Linkman –a concierge who hails taxi cabs from a hotel or public
buildings

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