Sir Roger de Coverley for String Quartet
Frank Bridge’s Sir Roger de Coverley was composed in 1922, the third in a series of folksongs he arranged for string quartet. The title is taken from the words to a traditional English folksong Sir Roger de Coverley, A Christmas Dance composed by John Playford in 1685. A series of descending scales provide an introduction to the set of variations which present the melody either in fragmented form, spread between the instruments or in its entirety. Toward the end, the viola in a humorous and jocular interlude introduces the famous folk tune Auld Lang Syne often sung at that time of the year. The work concludes with a variation which is in form a Scottish reel. While Bridge provided ad libitum bass parts from his other two folksong arrangements for quartet, he did not do so here. However, the noted bass soloist and Professor of Music, Dr. Anthony Scelba, has provided one for us which is included.
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 written before 1924 which contributed to his success.