Ashley Wass

Bridge: Piano Music 2

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The inevitable follow-up to Frank Bridge Piano Music 1, the disc called Frank Bridge Piano Music 2 may ultimately wind up being the more frequently played of the pair. Although the first has its many charms and delights, A Fairy Tale and In Autumn chief among them, the second has the Piano Sonata -- and that puts it in a class of its own. As fans of the early twentieth century English composer already know, Bridge's three-movement, 35-minute Sonata is a masterful work of incredible harmonic and structural daring that stands head and shoulders above every other English work in the form, and as fans of the composer also already know, it is rarely -- very, very rarely -- recorded. Thankfully, pianist Ashley Wass is up to, on top of, and deep into the sonata. With his brilliant technique and strong but supple tone, Wass controls the work's huge structures, illuminates its luminous colors, and expresses its enormous emotions. In the remaining lighter works on the program, his playing is just as fine, though more overtly charming and immediately appealing, particularly in "April" and "Rosemary" from Three Sketches. But for fans of the composer or for anyone interested in twentieth century English music, it will be the Sonata that leaves them drop-jawed and awe-struck. Naxos' sound is clean but hollow, clear but empty.

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