Phantasie for String Quartet in f minor
The Phantasie for String Quartet by Frank Bridge (1879-1941) was one of the prize winning compositions in the prestigious Cobbett Competition of 1905. The Cobbett Competitions where designed to encourage the younger generation of British composers to write chamber music. Its founder and benefactor was the chamber music aficionado William Wilson Cobbett. The rules of the competition provided an alternate format, the old English Fancy for Fantasia from the time of Purcell, to the traditional four movement work which had developed from Haydn onwards. There was to be only a single movement of around 15 minutes duration embracing a variety of moods, tone colors and tempi while at the same time retaining an inner unity. Therefore, Bridge who wrote this work with the competition in mind wrote it, as the rules stipulated in one movement, but there are actually three distinct sections or sub-movements within the one larger one.
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 Phantasie for String Quartet and his Miniatures for Piano Trio which contributed to his success.
The opening Allegro moderato, after a boisterous, brief introduction, begins with a march-like subject. The second melody, has an almost Latin American quality to it with the lovely lyrical tune over the cello's quasi arpeggio figure. The main theme of the Andante moderato, is reminiscent of the song Londonderry Air which he also arranged for string quartet. Again, the highly romantic second subject has a Latin American mood to it. The final section, Allegro ma non troppo, begins in sprightly fashion with a very updated tonality for the time. It leads to a very attractive and more lyrical second subject which alternates with first.
This is a fine work which would do well in the concert hall but will present no technical difficulties to amateurs. Long out of print, we are pleased to make it available once again.