Frank Bridge

Frank Bridge (1879-1941)

Nationality: English
Born: February 26, 1879, Brighton Died: January 10, 1941, Eastbourne (age 61)

Phantasie Trio (Piano Trio No. 1) in c minor, H.79

(for violin, cello and piano)
Allegro moderato ma con fuoco - Andante con molta espressione - Allegro scherzoso - Andante - Allegro moderato - Con anima
Duration: 16 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1907 (age 27-28)
5 recordings, 5 videos
Morgenstern Trio
Hartley Trio
Dussek Piano Trio
Dimension Piano Trio
Backman Trio
From Kai Christiansen

Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
Phantasie (Trio) in C minor, H.79 (1907)

The British composer Frank Bridge is apt to be unknown to most, his greatest claim to fame being the mention of his name in the work title "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge" written by Benjamin Britten, Bridge's star pupil. Bridge was part of a generation that included more well-known British composers such as Holst, Vaughan Williams, Bax and Ireland who, for the first time since the early Baroque, helped create noteworthy music in a national English style. Bridge's own music underwent significant stylistic change during his lifetime: he began writing in an accessible late Romantic style but, following the end of WWI, shifted towards a more dissonant expressionistic style eventually skirting the boundaries of atonality and twelve-tone music. His later music tended to alienate the more conservative British audiences, and, eclipsed by his contemporaries of greater fame, Bridge fell into relative obscurity. Nonetheless, Bridge left a well-crafted body of work featuring all of his stylistic periods. Perhaps owning to his career as a violinist and violist who performed with a number of professional quartets, Bridge was a particularly fine composer of chamber music including two piano trios and four string quartets among numerous other works for small ensemble.

Walter Willson Cobbett was an English amateur musician who devoted considerable time, money and scholarship to the art of chamber music. He established a competition to help promote the composition of new English chamber music. In a series of competitions and commissions, Cobbett called upon composers to create new works in a unique genre he named the "Phantasy" (or "Phantasie") in modern homage to the 16th Century "Fancy" (or "fantasy") representing a high-water mark of English chamber music from the late Renaissance. Bridge submitted entries to Cobbett's competitions winning a prize at least four separate times. In 1907 when Cobbett's second competition specifically requested a Phantasy for piano trio, Bridge won first prize for his Phantasy in C minor.

While Cobbett later defined the Phantasy genre quite generally as single movement work of moderate length (around 12-15 minutes) with multiple sections differentiated by changes of tempo and rhythm (as with the Renaissance Fancy), some composers tended to imbue the single-movement Phantasy with many characteristics of the multi-movement classical sonata including a sonata form (e.g. with multiple themes, development and recapitulation) as well as references to the slow movement and scherzo. Bridge's wonderful Phantasie demonstrates this precise ingenuity in a rather lush late Romantic style typical of his first period. The Phantasie begins with stormy flourish out of which grows a brooding, melancholic first theme over a mesmerizing piano ostinato. Once he brings the theme to its full expression, Bridge guides the music into a second, rather euphoric theme. A central "slow movement" section follows featuring an exploratory development section interrupted in the very middle by a sprightly scherzo in vivid contrast. The remainder of the Phantasie works back through the broadly paced slow-movement and into to the faster sonata signaled by the initial stormy flourish and the two-themed recapitulation. As Bridge would return to the piano trio some twenty years later (and in a much different style), this early Phantasie is also sometimes known as his Piano Trio No. 1.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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