Tuesday 3 January 2012

12 for 2012: No.10: Frank Bridge (1879-1941)

During each of the twelve days of Christmas, the 1709 Blog is bringing readers some information concerning an author, composer, artist or creator who died in 1941 and whose works fall into the public domain in 2012 in countries which operate a "life plus seventy years" term for copyright in authors' works. Today we feature an undeservedly little-known composer of some idyllic music -- and also some fairly desolate sounds.

Following his studies at the Royal College of Music under the notoriously harsh tutelage of Charles Stanford, Frank Bridge embarked on his musical career as a violinist, conductor and composer. Bridge soon exchanged his violin for a viola and made a name for himself as a high-profile chamber musician. This did not slow him down from progressing along the conducting path, becoming Henry Wood’s preferred deputy on many occasions; neither did it prevent him from producing a number of popular compositions.

Bridge’s early compositional style showed the influence of Ravel, Debussy and Scriabin, and his chamber music works were highly regarded. However, after the First World War Bridge’s creative style underwent a radical change. The ‘utter despair’ he felt at the tragedy and inhumanity of the war was translated into desolate, pessimistic and uncomfortable musical sounds. He developed his characteristic ‘Bridge chord’, which is the combined clash of C minor and D major chords, and which features in a number of his post-war works. This change in musical style did not do his popularity any favours; his music became more inaccessible and far less charming. Although Bridge’s more radical music did meet with better reception in America, Bridge remained in demand in his native England as a conductor, performer and teacher of a great many pupils – most notably Benjamin Britten, whose 1937 ‘Variations on a theme by Frank Bridge’ was dedicated to his teacher. Some of Bridge’s most famous works include ‘Moto perpetuo’ for violin (1900), and his orchestral suite ‘The Sea’ (1911).

This series has been authored by Miriam Levenson, whom the 1709 Blog gives its grateful thanks.

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