Three Idylls for String Quartet
The Three Idylls for String Quartet date from 1906 and were written at a time when Bridge was much concerned with chamber music. Several of his most appealing chamber works were composed during the first decade of the 20th century.
Born in Sussex, Frank Bridge learned to play violin from his father, and had much early exposure to practical musicianship, playing in theatre orchestras his father conducted. He studied violin and composition, the latter from Charles Stanford, at the Royal College of Music. He later played viola in prominent quartets and was a respected conductor. When Frank Bridge’s chamber music first appeared, it was a revelation to amateurs as well as professional players. Interestingly, the revival in interest in Bridge’s music which took place during the last part of the 20th Century has concerned itself exclusively with his more ‘radical’ works, dating from 1924 onwards. Ironically, these works did nothing to create or further enhance the firm reputation he had established with both professionals and amateurs. Rather, it was works just like the Three Idylls, the Phantasie for String Quartet and his Miniatures for Piano Trio which contributed to his success.
Bridge's purpose in writing The Three Idylls was the create a tonal canvas of many different textures and expressive characters and in this he succeeds quite remarkably. The first, begins Adagio molto, and has a somewhat dark and melancholy mood. The middle section has while not more upbeat has a quicker Latin beat to it. The second Idyll, Allegretto poco lento, is the shortest of the three. It, too, is melancholy but in a syncopated bluesy way. The finale Idyll, Allegro con moto, is full of nervous energy. It is traveling music, very modern for its time anticipating by several years what Gershwin and others would later do.