Frank Bridge (1879-1941)

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Barbican Hall, London

I can’t recall Sir Simon conducting Elgar Two (1910-11) before, certainly not a performance, or, memory perhaps failing, on paper. He’s recorded Enigma Variations, Falstaff and Gerontius, plus the Violin Concerto (twice) and the Cello Concerto.

The first movement started with the energy of a confident composer, only to slow (arguably too much) for reflection, before returning to the opening horsepower: a dichotomy had been proposed that permeated the whole of this opener, sometimes hectic if with no detriment to playing or detailing, yet excitement and lingering, and a certain brashness, do not necessarily hang together. The funereal nature of the second movement was highlighted (maybe it would have been anyway, although the Symphony is dedicated to the memory of Edward VII), very spacious, intense and inward, not least when an oboe has an eloquent soliloquy, with raging outbursts contrasting with the spellbinding pppp hush that was evident at times and which will, I think, have mesmerised the audience. Following which the Scherzo went a long way to being the marked Presto, with an eruptive central section and a dazzling coda. The multi-faceted Finale begun in amiable fashion, with a modicum of pomp, but didn’t always gel, although the variance of flag-flying and the disillusioned end-of-an-era fade were starkly contrasted.

Following the UK National Anthem (only a few days had elapsed since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II), the concert opened with Daniel Kidane’s Sun Poem (London premiere),, and continued with Frank Bridge’s twenty-minute Enter Spring (1927), impressionistic, expressive, delirious, consummately scored for a large orchestra, at times suggesting a kinship with the music of Frenchman Albert Roussel, and introducing a memorable melody that will dominate the celebratory conclusion. Rattle and the LSO gave a brilliant performance, vivid, detailed and sumptuous, alive to inevitability – seasonal renewal – as well as onomatopoeia, and flora and fauna.