Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Frank Bridge: Two Intermezzos from ‘Threads’

Until recently, I had never listened to Frank Bridge's Two Intermezzi from ‘Threads.’ I confess to having had the music in my CD collection for a few years. But somehow I had never sat down and given this work my undivided attention. And it is a pity. They are severally beautiful and exhilarating pieces that certainly deserve a niche in the repertoire of Bridge’s music in particular and British music in general.

I depend on Paul Hindmarsh for a brief resumé of the work’s origin. ‘Threads’ was Bridge’s second foray into the world of incidental music; the first being ‘The Two Hunchbacks’. The music was composed for Denys Grayson and the St. James Theatre in London. Apparently the play, a three-act comedy written by Frank Stayton, ran for less than a month and was largely forgotten. The music was put to one side only to be revived in 1939 when it appeared in a version for ‘theatre’ orchestra.

The first of the two ‘Threads’ is signed as an ‘andante’ and is written in Bridge’s nostalgic style. Of course this piece was written after the Great War and just before he began work on the massive Piano Sonata. Yet, it is back to a pre-war age that this music looks. Paul Hindmarsh describes it as being another example of “wistful English melodies, with falling phrases full of nostalgic regrets”. It is sadly so short at just under four minutes: there can be few Bridge enthusiasts who would not give much for it to be three times the length! The ‘andante’ is followed by a robust ‘tempi di valse’ which is about as far removed from the ‘expressionist music’ that was about to inform many of his post-Great War masterpieces. It is in reality a ‘pastiche Viennese waltz’ and as such is certainly one of the most exuberant pieces that the composer wrote.

The irony, of course is that the music is now remembered (just) whereas the play has sunk without trace.

The music is available on Chandos 10426

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