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Four Pieces for String Orchestra (Frank Bridge) Arranged by Paul Hindmarsh
1. Prelude in E minor [H.29]
2. Valse Intermezzo in E minor [H.17]
3. Song without Words [H.22]
4. Scherzo Phantastick [H. 6]
Score and single parts (for licensed reproduction) PHM011a Print: £55.00
In the autumn of 1999, John Bishop (1931 – 2000) the administrator of the Royal College of Music’s Frank Bridge Bequest music committee, invited me to assemble a suite of pieces as a “home” for an attractive early waltz for string orchestra. We had both long admired this work, but were undecided how best to promote it. As I considered some of Bridge’s early piano pieces to be more like sketches for string works than genuine keyboard music, I looked for suitable items from his early instrumental music the three companion arrangements almost chose themselves.
1. Prelude: Moderato in E minor [H.29] Bridge composed this lilting and harmonically eccentric little work while on holiday in “Cardigan, September 5, 1903”, and although written out and published in piano score [Volume 20, Frank Bridge Edition, Thames Publishing, 1993], it exhibits features more characteristic of Bridge’s string writing: the viola-like opening phrase, the chordal textures, which lack any keyboard ﬁguration; the expansive climax, which beneﬁts from a string treatment. It is also in E minor, Bridge’s favourite string key.
2. Valse-Intermezzo in E minor [H.17] Completed on 22 August 1902, in Eastbourne, during his summer holiday from the Royal College of Music, this waltz for strings is the most elegant and conﬁdent of all Bridge’s student works. The string writing is accomplished, demonstrating the growing experience of a talented performer. The musical idiom, with its expansive melodies reveals how much he had learned from of his favourite French and Russian models.
3. Song without words: (Andante) con moto [H.22] In April 1903, shortly after leaving student life behind him, Bridge began composing in earnest. One of the ﬁrst pieces he completed was a miniature ‘Schumannesque’ salon piece for violin and piano in G major, marked Con Moto and dated 16 April. Bridge’s lyrical theme includes some irregular ﬁve bar phrase length – unusual in his early music – and is supported by some piquant chromatic harmonies. In my string version, the ﬁrst violins take the solo part throughout.
4. Scherzo Phantastick in E minor [H.6] Dated 8 July 1901, this is the earliest of the pieces in this anthology. The string quartet original was composed for informal ‘At Home’ concerts given in the Students’ Union of the Royal College of Music in London. Bridge was a renowned practical joker, and this witty scherzo and trio was one of a number of musical jokes that he composed for these light-hearted evenings. The mock-serious Trio, for example, ends with a musical sneeze. In the original, the ﬁrst violin disappears to play his part from various places in the hall, ﬁnally emerging in the gallery. My string orchestra version retains the musical sneeze, but not the “off-stage” moments.