Bridge, Frank


Bridge, Frank

String Quartet No. 3 (score and parts)


Frank Bridge

String Quartet No.3, H.175 (1925-7)

(b. 26 February 1879, Brighton; d. 10 January 1941, Eastbourne)

I. Andante moderato—Allegro moderato p.1

II. Andante con moto p.26

III. Allegro energico p.34


Frank Bridge was among the generation of British composers who followed Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), helping to usher in the British musical “Renaissance” at the turn of the 20th century. He trained at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London as a scholarship composition student of Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). During his time at the “Nursery” (as he called it), he sowed the seeds of a long career as a professional violist, freelance conductor, and composer. As a member of the Joachim and English String Quartets, he gained an intimate knowledge of that idiom. A fastidious craftsman and consummate musician, Bridge produced compositions of the first rate, and enjoyed some popularity in his early years. However, his highly individual style ultimately evolved beyond the conservative tastes of his British audiences, and by his death in 1941, he had fallen into near obscurity. For decades, his name survived through the efforts of his only composition pupil, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), whose set of variations for string orchestra are based on a tune of his boyhood mentor. Thankfully, by the 1970s, scholars and connoisseurs began to reexamine and champion his music, and today nearly his entire output has been published and/or recorded.

It is not surprising, given his solid training and longtime station as a chamber musician, that Bridge produced a substantial quantity of large-scale chamber works of consistently high quality and in a variety of instrumental scorings. His four numbered string quartets (there is also an unnumbered early quartet in B-flat, the Phantasie Quartet in f minor, and a handful of shorter pieces) span the entirety of his compositional career, written at roughly ten-year intervals. They are each a representative sample, exemplifying various stages in Bridge’s stylistic development. No. 1 in e minor (H. 70, 1906, Bologna) embodies the studied elegance of his early “salon” period. No. 2 in g minor (H. 115, 1914-15) is a work of transition, utilizing a richer harmonic palette and formal economy of means. Nos. 3 (H. 175, 1925-7) and 4 (H. 188, 1937) are from his late period, the longest though least fecund stage of his life. Beginning with his Scriabin-esque Piano Sonata (H. 160, 1922-5), Bridge’s true voice would emerge, one unfettered from the tonal conventions of the past (and of his British peers), though still characterized by the purity of musical utterance and assuredness in formal structure and argument that had distinguished his chamber music for decades.


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