Britain's Nash Ensemble has championed the music of Frank Bridge, and this may be the album that puts his music in the mainstream. The music is beautifully chosen and beautifully played. What string quartet could not benefit from including in its repertoire the lovely arrangement of An Irish Melody: The Londonderry Air, better known to Americans as Danny Boy, or one of the other two folk song arrangements? All three are different. The longer pieces on the program, except for one, come from before World War I, when Bridge forged a distinctively British late Romanticism marked by an inventive use of cyclical forms combined with an intensely lyrical quality. Both the Phantasy Piano Quartet in F sharp minor and the Cello Sonata recorded here condense traditional forms and subsume them within a flow of melody. The Phantasy Piano Quartet, written for a contest specifying contemporary works that evoked the era of the viol fantasy, is especially attractive and formally supple. The Nash Ensemble gets the true passion of the work and also of the single later piece, the Violin Sonata of 1932. Bridge's largely atonal later style, brought on by a crisis of conscience related to the devastation of World War I, is often taken to be a complete break with his earlier style, but the composer himself did not regard it that way and was frustrated by the tendency to do so. The performance here gets the lyrical quality, and it's very well recorded in the small venue beloved by Hyperion's engineers, Suffolk's Potton Hall. Recommended on all fronts.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim