London Bridge Ensemble

Bridge: Piano Quintet; Three Skecthes; Phantasie; Pensiero

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The London Bridge Ensemble's second album featuring the music of Frank Bridge consists of several of the composer's first mature chamber works. It's anchored by the Piano Quintet, one of his more popular works, performed with lushness by the ensemble. The musicians bring out the richness and passion of the music, easily carrying the listener along for the ride on lyrical, long lines. This wouldn't be possible without excellent ensemble skills and unified sound. The other works are pretty much of the same ilk: essentially tonal, with some adventuresome harmonies, all eminently accessible because of the ardent, flowing themes and motives. The Phantasie Quartet starts out in a darker humor, but it doesn't stay there. Here and in the quintet, Bridge often combines at least two of the instruments into a single voice supporting or playing off of the other instruments' individual voices. Paul Hindmarsh's completion of the second movement of the Sonata for violin and piano fits unnoticeably with Bridge's first part, although there is an odd, extended piano solo in the middle of the movement that leads one to think that it's where Bridge stopped writing because he couldn't figure out how to reconcile it with the rest of the movement. The Spring Song at the end of the program is a piece much simpler in dimension and emotion, more like the pastoral music one expects from the early 20th century English composers. The recording's sound picks up the strings very well, highlighting the fullness of the timbre. The only drawback to the album is that the piano sounds cold and distant by comparison, even in the solo Three Sketches. That aside, this is a top-notch performance of Bridge's chamber music.

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