Against Stiff Competition This CD Still Deserves Attention
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 08/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Frank Bridge's tone poems included on this CD from the wonderful New Zealand Symphony, under James Judd, come up against strong competition from a couple of older recordings, those of Sir Charles Groves and Richard Hickox, each of which has a slight edge over this budget-priced new entry. I frankly fell in love with them when the 1975 Groves recording came out, and possibly I'm simply too familiar with those wonderful performances to hear the current efforts without a certain bias. But there are details that clearly are superior in the Groves. For instance, Groves's 'The Sea' is so clearly describing the roiling North Sea with its dramatic crashes of surf against rocks, compared to the rather quieter and, dare I say, tame sea in Judd's performance. In fairness, Judd's 'Moonlight' (3rd movement of 'The Sea') is gorgeously done. Hickox, too, makes this a more vivid picture. The same is true with 'Enter Spring,' which I consider to be an out-and-out masterpiece. Judd doesn't quite give the same impression of Spring coming in as a force of nature to defeat the clutches of Winter; his Spring is rather too well-behaved, although it is beautifully performed by his New Zealanders.
The 'Two Poems for Orchestra,' included here (amounting to about 11 minutes of music) are new to me. They are slighter than the other pieces, but none the less beautiful for that. And they are given loving performances here. 'Summer' is also slighter than either 'Enter Spring' or 'The Sea,' and it is given a rather more gentle, and perhaps appropriate, performance than that of Groves. For that matter, Richard Hickox's performance is rather more bucolic, too. Hickox, by the way, has recorded all of Bridge's orchestral music on Chandos and both that series and Groves's early recording of the pieces here (sans the 'Two Tone Poems') are available here at Amazon, at a somewhat higher price than this Naxos disc.
So, my advice would be to go for the Groves if you're new to Bridge's orchestral music. But if you are interested in hearing the 'Two Tone Poems,' and don't already own them, this budget disc would be a good purchase. It's not that the other performances here are bad - and indeed if I hadn't heard the earlier recordings I would probably be more positive about them - it's just that Hickox and especially Groves have the edge.
Bill Leubrie | Seattle | 06/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Was utterly unfamiliar with this composer except as a name, as in Benjamin Britten's "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge." Discovered a fascinating line of late Romantic music. Highly recommended."