Frank Bridge – Dance Rhapsody
(b. Brighton, 26 February, 1879 – d. Eastbourne, 10 January, 1941)
Dance Rhapsody (1908) marks the dissolution of Frank Bridge’s initial stylistic conventionality, occupying a place between the early chamber music and the dynamism of the Suite for Strings (1908). The work separates his initial enthusiasm for thematic interrelation and arch forms—inspired by the phantasy genre and W.W. Cobbett’s promotion of it—from the later developmental thematic processes and chromatic density.
Like Bridge’s contemporary orchestral pieces—Isabella (1907) especially—Dance Rhapsody presents its tidy lyricism and harmonic/thematic homogeneity in compartmentalized formal schema. This tendency is especially audible in musical motives that participate in surface variation instead of development. Five large sections constrain the composer’s thematic approach, though this sectional arrangement will soon yield to an evolutionary impulse. Beginning with the Suite for Strings (1908) and The Sea (1910-11), Bridge turned to thematic transformation and harmonic variety to forge more continuous forms as part of an increasingly dynamic expressive language. 1913’s Dance Poem continues the tendency toward organicism, employing motives designed for contrapuntal development and transformation.1
Bridge completed Dance Rhapsody’s autograph score on May 20, 1908 and conducted its premiere two months later on July 21st at the Royal College of Music. Held today in the RCM library as MS 10414, the manuscript reflects Bridge’s deletion of most of the final dance’s reprise, likely for a 1938 radio broadcast.2 While blue pencil strikes out this material in the autograph, subsequent editions often restore the excised measures.3
After its premiere, however, Dance Rhapsody received little attention. Though heard at the Liverpool Festival of British Music in September 1909, further high-profile performances were limited to a Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert in October 1914 and a December 1918 event at the Royal Albert Hall. Bridge himself prevented additional hearings, as he misplaced the score and parts for fifteen years after the Royal Albert Hall engagement.4 Partly due to this oversight, the work’s first broadcast was not until September 1938, under Clarence Raybould and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The piece again fell into obscurity, however, and was only revived in 1977 by Ashley Lawrence’s BBC Concert Orchestra. …
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