Bridge and Britten, Britten and Bridge

Bridge and Britten, Britten and Bridge Abstract Britten and Bridge have been bracketed together since Britten’s tribute to his teacher in his fiftieth-birthday reminiscence. It was largely through Britten’s endeavours that Bridge’s name was kept alive during the forties and fifties, through the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, while Britten’s programming of Bridge’s music in Aldeburgh Festival concerts and the publication of select late scores by his own publisher, Faber Music, led the revival of interest in the music. Mark Amos suggests that ‘an unhooking from Britten and his inherent cultural baggage is now essential if we are to understand Bridge on his own terms’. The contention in this essay, though, is that there is still something to be learned about Bridge through Britten, through what Britten writes about him, and especially through an examination of the music they both composed during and immediately after Britten’s apprenticeship. The reception of Frank Bridge’s music in the years since his death in 1941 has been so closely bound up with the figure of Benjamin Britten that Mark Amos has suggested that ‘an unhooking from Britten and his inherent cultural baggage is now essential if we are to understand Bridge on his own terms’.1 The desire for such an ‘unhooking’ of the two composers is hardly surprising. To the general musical public—and to many professional musicians, too—Bridge is probably still best known as Britten’s teacher, and his own music has often been viewed simply as one of Britten’s compositional pushing-off points. There is also the circumstance that much of the rehabilitation of Bridge’s music after his death in 1941 came about through Britten’s agency. This was manifest in several prominent ways. Britten programmed him in the Aldeburgh Festival (the first Festival in 1948 included the Phantasy Quartet); he encouraged the publication of Bridge’s key later works when he moved to a new publisher, Faber Music, in 1964; he recorded the Cello Sonata with Rostropovich in 1969; he promoted the qualities of Bridge’s music in speeches, interviews, and his rare ventures onto the printed page, especially in his fiftieth-birthday reminiscence ‘Britten looking Back’, published in the Sunday Telegraph of 17 November 1963 (this is in fact entirely about his relationship with his teacher);2 and he based what was to become one of his most popular works on a Bridge theme (the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10 of 1937). Yet even a nodding acquaintance with the music of both composers should prompt recognition of their considerable differences. As Stephen Banfield observes in his review of Frank Bridge: A Thematic Catalogue 1900–1941 by Paul Hindmarsh, The Bridges, who had no children, came to view Frank’s sole composition pupil Benjamin Britten almost as a son, yet although this teacher–pupil relationship is of considerable historic significance it must surely become clearer as time goes on that their musical thought has very little in common. Britten and Bridge are poles apart in their relation to musical tradition.3 Not only were they both strong musical personalities, they were members of different generations, both of which were witness to, and shaped by, substantial political, societal, and technological change. The customary approach to their relationship is to see how Bridge influenced Britten, but my contention in this essay is that there is a good deal to be learned about Bridge by reversing the perspective. This I shall pursue through discussion of Britten’s writings and interview comments, but also (perhaps more precisely) by comparing the two composers’ music during the years of Britten’s tutelage and immediately after, up to the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, a work that represents Britten’s signing off his apprenticeship: it is a tribute to his teacher but also, I shall argue, an Oedipal confrontation. Comparison of their outputs of this period throws up interesting differences within the similarities. Both maintained an investment in tonality, for instance, but in markedly different ways. And while Bridge’s sponsorship by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge from 1923 freed him from the vicissitudes of the market, Britten needed to generate income when he left the Royal College of Music. This had divergent consequences for their music. In particular, the type of modernism Britten found sympathetic was different from that which appealed to Bridge. To progressive spirits of Bridge’s generation, who came to maturity with an essentially Germanic late-Romantic mode of utterance, the ramping-up of chromaticism and the loosening of the bonds of traditional tonal structuring represented a clear means of exploring new expressive territory, which for Bridge (as for much of the music of the Second Viennese School, especially before the advent of serialism) meant the maximization of interiority. For Britten, starting out in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the range of available radicalizing exemplars was larger, and included the recontextualizing of the vocabulary and techniques of common-practice tonality seen in neoclassical Stravinsky and Les Six. Needing to face outwards for commercial as well as artistic reasons, Britten embraced an eclecticism that supported a greater expressive range. I begin with Britten’s comments on Bridge—those he wrote for publication as well as those found in his diaries and letters. I give special consideration to his views on Bridge’s stylistic development and his assessment of one of Bridge’s finest works, the Second Piano Trio. Comparison of the two composers’ approaches during Britten’s formative period involves works by Bridge with which Britten is known to have had contact, including the Three Idylls, Third String Quartet, There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, the Trio-Rhapsody, and, more fleetingly, the Second Piano Trio and Oration. While the works and movements I have chosen for comparison are significant within their composers’ outputs and their developments, the principal criterion for their selection is the capacity to illuminate similarities and differences in their compositional concerns during a relatively short period, 1927–37. There is a good deal of literature tracing Britten’s development; less on Bridge.4 It is useful briefly to contextualize the main body of this essay by noting general aspects of both composers’ outputs in the ten years under investigation. Works from the period are listed in Table 1; those examined in detail are set in bold. Bridge’s output is presented complete; Britten’s is more selective because of the volume of pieces, particularly of juvenilia, that he produced. Table 1 Britten’s and Bridge’s works 1927–37 Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Table 1 Britten’s and Bridge’s works 1927–37 Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Bridge’s list consolidates and extends his interest in the more radical developments of continental European music first witnessed in the Piano Sonata (1924). Two points of clarification are useful. First, Bridge is not so unconcerned with success with an audience as my comment above that his sponsorship by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge ‘freed him from the vicissitudes of the market’ might have suggested, and secondly, because of his pursuit in at least one of the works of a broad reception, his language is not uniformly progressive. While the chamber works often attract the epithet ‘experimental’ and explore harmonic and expressive resources more likely at that time to engage Austro-Germans than Britons, Bridge clearly had no desire to become a recluse. As Amos points out, Enter Spring, commissioned for the Norwich Triennial Festival and partly conceived to further his ambitions as a conductor, is an attempt to replicate the great success of his orchestral suite The Sea (1910) at the 1924 Festival.5 The genre and general mood are ‘pitched towards Norwich and similar openings, with a view to making the work speak to its likely audiences’. The contrast in tone with There is a Willow is striking, yet Fabian Huss suggests that the latter—which was composed during a break in the composition of Enter Spring—‘may have been conceived initially as a section of the larger work’. He also notes, after Hindmarsh, that ‘the short score of There is a Willow is interleaved with the full score of Enter Spring, at the point when the latter reaches a pedal G sharp (the opening note of There is a Willow) at the beginning of the central section’.6 As Huss points out, this seems extraordinary given the contrasts in mood and the very conception of the material, which is closer to that of the ensuing chamber works, including the Third String Quartet, the first version of which was completed before Enter Spring but later revised. On the other hand, largely because of the programmatic element, There is a Willow is, like Enter Spring, more sectional than the chamber works, and—especially in the Lamentoso section, which is melody-plus-accompaniment—more traditional in texture. The attempt at a public-facing style in Enter Spring failed to convince the critics,7 and, seemingly, Bridge himself, who in 1930 wrote to Alan Bush that ‘Possibly it is a cheap work. It may even be vulgar, but it just happened as it is, + as I enjoyed writing it that may be all there is to it … ’.8 Perhaps this is why he subsequently focused on an approach more likely to resonate with connoisseurs of the European avant-garde, such as Coolidge—though as Huss points out, ‘The modernist elements of Oration were contained within a framework that made sense to British commentators’.9 Neither are the chamber works monolithic in their structural approach, with the outer movements of the Third String Quartet more harmonically oriented than the movement examined below and the Trio-Rhapsody. Being at the other end of his career, Britten’s music listed in Table 1 is ‘experimental’ in a different way: he is seeking to develop a technique and a voice. To examine these works is to be aware that he could have moved in a different direction to that which eventuated, but the essential question for him seems to have been whether to follow Bridge in the direction of a more-or-less saturated chromaticism, tethered in varying degrees, which is what we see in Quartettino, or to search for a new way with diatonicism, which is explored in the first three published works, Sinfonietta, Phantasy Quartet, and A Boy was Born. Meanwhile Britten’s engagement with characteristic types mentioned above, involving a rapprochement with elements of tonality that have a minimal role in Opp. 1–3 (for example, triads and straightforward functional relationships), climaxes in the works in 1937–8, including the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. britten’s writings about bridge Britten’s first public mention of Bridge appears in an article published in the American version of the housejournal of his then publishers (Boosey & Hawkes), Tempo. Entitled ‘An English Composer Sees America’ and completed in March 1940,10 it focuses on the differences between European and American musical life, especially from the point of view of the composer. The final three paragraphs address what Britten calls ‘the very real danger of excessive nationalism’. In England he identifies ‘two reactions’ to ‘the preponderating German influence which had been stifling English music for 150 years’, separating Elgar and Bridge (who are ‘practicing musicians’) from ‘the folksong group’, which ‘held up the progress of music for twenty-five years’.11 He extended this discussion of what he calls the ‘Folk-Art Problem’ in an article published the next year in another American journal, Modern Music,12 again focusing on Bridge and Elgar. Though Britten had privately sustained a low opinion of Elgar,13 he sees him as representing the professional point of view, which emphasizes the importance of technical efficiency and welcomes any foreign influences that can be profitably assimilated. Parry and his followers, with the Royal College of Music as their center, have stressed the amateur idea and they have encouraged folk-art, its collecting and teaching. They are inclined to suspect technical brilliance of being superficial and insincere. This difference may not be unconnected with the fact that Elgar was compelled to earn his living by music, whereas Parry was not. Parry’s national idea was, in fact, the English Gentleman (who generally thinks it rather vulgar to take too much trouble). From Parry and his associates there arose a school of composers directly influenced by folksong, to which belonged virtually every composer known here [i.e. in the USA] until recently, except, of course, Elgar and Frank Bridge. This may seem surprising to many Americans who have come to regard Elgar as synonymous with England. But he is, in fact, a most eclectic composer, his most obvious influences being Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Franck.14 This is not a particularly balanced view, with more than a whiff of snobbery towards those whom Britten is himself branding as snobbish: Parry was not the rank amateur with limited horizons that Britten suggests. The chief representative of the ‘school of composers directly influenced by folksong’ was, of course, Parry’s pupil Vaughan Williams, whom Britten seems to have found so uncongenial a composer that he could not bring himself to name him.15 But of more interest is Britten’s underplaying of Bridge’s debt to Germanic models. Elgar’s and Bridge’s reactions to ‘the preponderating German influence’ is hedged by saying that they ‘realized the value of the classical tradition yet [their] utterances were characteristically English’. This means very little as there is no indication of what being ‘characteristically English’ might entail if it is not folk-based. Given the intense dislike for Brahms that Britten had developed by the date of these articles,16 and given the Brahmsian basis of the pedagogical approach of Bridge’s teacher, Charles Villiers Stanford,17 it is perhaps not surprising that he minimized the role of Germanic models. But as Anthony Payne points out, Unlike his [Bridge’s] many British contemporaries who had received a similar German-based grounding in composition, he does not seem to have questioned its premises. … This cast of thought enabled him later to assimilate elements of Bergian expressionism, and alienated him from a public more used to British composers whose modernism was tinged with Debussy, Ravel or Stravinsky.18 Payne elsewhere acknowledges the French influence on Bridge, but sees it in a leavening role, his earlier music ‘being a personal extension of the Brahms-Stanford idiom, then common coin, but lightened by a Gallic clarity gleaned possibly from Fauré’.19 Britten continued to minimize the Germanic influence in a 1947 BBC Radio Third Programme talk, ‘Frank Bridge and English Chamber Music’, which preceded a performance of Bridge works by Britten himself and the Zorian Quartet.20 He notes here that Bridge’s ‘inclination was instinctively towards the French tradition of skill, grace and good workmanship, and away from 19th-century German decadence’,21 and that he ‘rebelled at having to play and listen to music that was excused as being Philosophic because it was simply ineffective, badly written and poorly worked out’.22 An indication that this is more about Britten sorting out his own relationship with the nineteenth-century German repertory (particularly Beethoven and Brahms, about both of whom he was initially enthusiastic before casting them aside) comes in the more mature reflections of ‘Britten Looking Back’, in which he notes that one of the reasons why there began to be ‘sharp conflicts as I came to resist his [Bridge’s] influence over me’ (of which a lot more later) was that ‘his approach was largely German, 18th and 19th century at that—and by then I’d discovered Purcell and the English madrigalists’.23 He mentions Bridge’s admiration for Berg and his introducing him to Schoenberg after a concert,24 and notes that at the time he was studying with him ‘he was consolidating his later style, highly intense and chromatic, although never actually atonal’.25 There might have been an opportunity here to mention the influence of Scriabin, a little of whose music, at least, Britten had heard and possibly played,26 and whom he must have realized was a significant exemplar in the ‘modernization’ of Bridge’s harmony—more so, it could be argued, than the Second Viennese School, Stravinsky, or Bartók. But other than the occasion mentioned above, Britten seems not to have expressed any interest in Scriabin, or offered an opinion on him. Most of ‘Britten Looking Back’, Britten’s last public statement on Bridge apart from his Aldeburgh Festival programme notes on The Sea and the Trio-Rhapsody, highlights Bridge’s professionalism and his intent on instilling in his young charge ‘a sense of technical ambition’: ‘In everything he did for me, there were perhaps above all two cardinal principles. One was that you should try to find yourself and be true to what you found. The other—obviously connected with it—was his scrupulous attention to good technique, the business of saying clearly what was in one’s mind.’27 Much of the article has been retold in Britten biographies and needs only the briefest indication of content here. It tells of Britten’s initial contact with Bridge’s music in the Norwich Triennial Festival of 1924, when he ‘was knocked sideways’ by The Sea; his introduction to the man himself by his viola teacher, Audrey Alston; the ‘mammoth’ lessons involving ‘immensely serious and professional study’; Bridge ‘insist[ing] on the absolutely clear relationship of what was in my mind to what was on the paper’; the arguments about how Britten intended to begin On this Island (Britten wanted to start with a glissando, but Bridge said he was ‘trying to make a side-drum or something non-tonal out the instrument’, so he changed it: ‘I was 24 by then [actually 2328], and still listening to him’); and Bridge’s support, without success, for Britten to go to Vienna to study with Berg. Britten’s programme notes for Aldeburgh Festival performances of Bridge are typical of the genre in being limited to movement titles and brief notes on form. But they also offer brief critical contextualizations. He writes that the Phantasie Piano Quartet (1910), performed in the first Festival of 1948, ‘is written in Bridge’s early style—sonorous yet lucid, with clear, clean lines, grateful to listen to and to play’, before pre-echoing the comments of Payne quoted above: ‘It is the music of a practical musician, brought up in German orthodoxy, but who loved French romanticism and conception of sound—Brahms happily tempered with Fauré.’29 In his note for the String Sextet (1906–12), performed the next year, he emphasizes the length of time it took to complete, which, he claims, is ‘indicative of Bridge’s self-criticism. He was always determined to approach perfection as nearly as possible, even though writing a work of less than thirty minutes in length might take him six years.’30 Britten also observes that, while the work was begun in the composer’s ‘carefree romantic twenties’, the approach ‘was tempered by the austerity that began to develop in his early thirties and only came to complete fruition after the First World War in the superb and strange later chamber music and orchestral music, such as his last two quartets, his piano trio [no. 2] and in “There is a Willow”’.31 Meanwhile the Piano Quintet (1904–12), performed in 1951, ‘may lack that strong control and selection which characterizes the later Bridge works, but it is full of warm, and highly personal melodies, and is most richly scored for the five instruments’.32 The 1971 note for The Sea, on the other hand, says nothing about the music except that ‘his writing for orchestra was confident, clear and personal’: more space is taken up on Bridge’s building a house near Beachy Head from which ‘(whenever it was fine) he would enjoy going prawning before breakfast’.33 The most protracted note is for the 1955 performance of the Third String Quartet (1926). It begins with a comparison with his earlier style: ‘To those who know only this period of his work the later pieces must seem like those of another composer.’ He is perhaps overstating the case in saying that the earlier works are ‘harmonically direct’, but few will disagree with the characterization of what was to come: ‘The later works have no clear keys, are acid in harmony, the melodies have a curious conversation-like character, and the rhythms are usually irregular, and definite rhythmic patterns are rare.’34 Perhaps as part of his Bridge-rehabilitation strategy he stresses the evolutionary aspect of Bridge’s stylistic change (‘stemming from a desire to say more personal and subtler things’),35 drawing comparisons with Mozart’s more contrapuntal later style, the increasing chromaticism in Wagner, and the foretelling of Schoenberg’s atonality in ‘an impatience of tonality … in the earliest work’. He also adds the reassurance that while the later works ‘can be difficult’, ‘the moods are clear, and the drama and tensions easy to feel’.36 He gives a short description of each movement, highlighting the ‘germ theme of the whole work (a rising minor triad falling a semitone, which also gives the tonality of the piece (F sharp) … ’ and the harmony of the second movement, which ‘throughout is of a very personal Frank Bridge flavour—bittersweet’.37 Britten’s final Bridge programme note is for the 1965 Festival performance (actually the belated premiere) of the Trio-Rhapsody, composed in 1928, the year he began studying with Bridge. This was one of the first Bridge works published by Faber Music, presumably at Britten’s suggestion, in the same year as its first performance. ‘I can well remember discussions about this work, when as a boy I was working with Bridge, and a try through of it. … In my opinion the work is decidedly worth reviving: it has a strong, fantastic character, very personal themes, and wonderfully resourceful writing for the instruments.’38 By ‘fantastic character’ he presumably means not only that it is a phantasy, but also that it is ‘imaginative or fanciful’, ‘strange’, ‘whimsical’, ‘capricious’, ‘illusory’, to cite common correspondences found in thesauruses: as discussed further below, the particularity of its tangential relationship to common-practice tonality (different from that of Scriabin or the just-pre-atonal works of the Second Viennese School, and indeed Britten around 1930) is crucial in this. Britten’s private views of Bridge became known when a selection of his letters and diaries were published between 1991 and 2013,39 though all that survives of Britten’s side of the correspondence is a telegram in September 1938 wishing Bridge bon voyage as he set off for New York for the first performance of his Fourth String Quartet.40 The diaries record events such as when lessons took place and Bridge giving Britten scores of his own works, as well as Britten’s reactions to performances of his teacher’s music. They also note Britten’s direct contact with Bridge’s music: transcribing The Sea for two pianos in merely one day, 15 December 1930, for example (though he subsequently made some alterations); correcting proofs of ‘his marvellous opera “Christmas Rose” [1919–29]’ in May 1931; and transcribing There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook for viola and piano on 11 December 1932.41 And he also records his performances—or rather, rehearsals and run-throughs—of Bridge works: on 25 October 1933 he played the orchestral part of Phantasm (completed a couple of years before) on the piano in a run-through at Steinways’ studio,42 and there are numerous entries detailing rehearsals of the Cello Sonata and Second Piano Trio while at the Royal College of Music. The Second Piano Trio receives some of the most interesting comments. His diary for 22 December 1931 notes that ‘Frank Bridge sends me—for Xmas—the score (& parts) of his new Trio. I am very bucked as it is a most interesting & beautiful work.’43 He began rehearsing it with Remo Lauricella and Bernard Richards the next month; apparently they were still working on it in November that year. In between he makes brief notes on their progress: ‘It’s less Greek than before now’ (2 Feb. 1932); ‘Scherzo—terribly difficult’ (24 May); ‘Good work at Bridge Scherzo’ (9 June); ‘his marvellous trio in which he coaches us’ (24 July).44 This suggests a good deal of commitment to the work, though there is no record of an actual performance. In the 1947 broadcast talk mentioned above, ‘Frank Bridge and English Chamber Music’, Britten states that the Trio ‘reached great heights’. He goes on to wonder ‘How great those heights really are is difficult for us in 1947 to assess’, but closes his talk by saying ‘I am not sure that this Trio is not one of the finest pieces of extended musical thinking of our time’.45 A few years later, however, he raised some interesting questions about the Trio in his diary: It is a fine work—genuinely musical & really inspired I feel. Perhaps a weakness is the restriction of harmonic & melodic language, which becomes a fraction tedious. It is as if a poet set out to write; & decided to avoid using the verb ‘to be’. (This is of course 90% of the trouble of contemporary music). Even so, I feel this leaves every other bit of recent British (& most foreign[)] chamber-music standing.46 This was written in February 1936, before Britten embarked on his first published orchestral work, Our Hunting Fathers, which he later declared to be ‘my op. 1 alright’,47 and should perhaps be read in the light of his own development at that point. It was indeed a crucial stage for Britten. He was heavily involved in film and theatre work in 1935 and 1936, drawing on a range of styles as the dramatic needs dictated. His contemporary concert music was also dominated by characteristic ‘types’: in the Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6, for example, the movements are entitled March, Moto perpetuo, Lullaby, and Waltz. This inevitably involved greater reference to the tonal elements that, if not being totally cast out in Bridge’s music, were certainly being pushed further into the structural hinterland. Thus Britten’s music is eclectic and harmonically diverse when Bridge was consolidating a highly individual, stylistically more circumscribed manner. Inevitably differences of circumstance played its part in this. As noted above, when Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge became his patron, Bridge was not financially dependent on performance royalties and thus audience reaction (‘audience’ including performers, administrators, and commissioners). But as a recent graduate, Britten needed to build an audience in order to earn his living, and to justify the contract he signed with Boosey & Hawkes at the beginning of 1936. Hence the focus on characteristic types mentioned above, which provide a strong point of contact with the music of the past that a broad audience would be familiar with, as well as the development of a technique that would allow not only for the very opposite of ‘restriction of harmonic & melodic language’ but also, as witnessed in Our Hunting Fathers, a much more dramatic approach than is to be found in Bridge. compositional comparisons If Bridge’s style was apparently of little direct relevance to Britten by 1936, to what extent did it influence his music during the short time he was under his tutelage, and in the years immediately afterwards when his official teacher was John Ireland? A good starting point for such a discussion is Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody for two violins and viola, completed in March 1928 (which, as noted above, Britten remembers talking about with Bridge), and Britten’s own Rhapsody for quartet, completed after several revisions a year later on 21 March 1929. The overall form of the Trio-Rhapsody recalls Bridge’s submissions for W. W. Cobbett’s Phantasie competitions.48 The basic behaviour of a phantasie (or phantasy, or fantasy—the spellings are interchangeable) and a rhapsody are not far removed: the emphasis in both is on The Moment, hence the looseness of form and the sense of improvisation, even of capriciousness. Works in both genres are often held together (sometimes rather loosely) by a broad symmetrical design and motivic association. Christian Kennett has proposed for the Trio-Rhapsody the form scheme reproduced in Fig. 1 (his Fig. 8.1), in which lower-case letters correspond with the themes he identifies in his Fig. 8.2, not reproduced here (he actually calls the themes motives).49 Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Kennett’s form scheme for Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Kennett’s form scheme for Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody While acknowledging the precision of Kennett’s taxonomy, I’d question whether it accurately reflects the essential character of the work. The music at Fig. 36 relates more obviously to Fig. 12, for example, with the ascending minor sixth of Fig. 12+1–2 replaced by a descending major third. And the more obvious returns—the means by which listeners are likely to orient themselves among the much more fugitive correspondences—such as that of Fig. 24 ff. at Fig. 49, for instance, are not captured. Indeed, the listening experience is considerably at odds with the strong patterning such a diagram implies. Huss captures the effect better in observing the application of ‘suggestions of sonata construction to a progressive arrangement of material that is simultaneously episodic and organic, resulting in a work that seems both wide-ranging and intensely integrated’, but even this may be too certain: as Payne says, the overall impression is of ‘a private and elusive world which contrasts with the grandeur of statement in the Piano Trio and Violin Sonata’, while Peter Evans writes of an ‘elusive emotional temper’.50 The elusiveness is most obvious in the harmonic relationships, which never coalesce into an unambiguously stable tonality, as Britten noted of the late works in general.51 The opening of the Trio-Rhapsody epitomizes much of the work’s character and operational basis. Described by Payne as a ‘ghostly region’,52 it consists of three subsections, the first two of which are reproduced in Ex. 1. In the first, the opening eight bars, the G announced initially in octave harmonics is sustained as a pedal against which conflicting pitches are pitted (pizzicato), drawing freely (that is to say, with no clear pattern) on eight different members of the chromatic scale. The potential dominant quality of the G is realized at the beginning of the next subsection, from bar 9 to Fig. 1, when scurrying scalic figures beginning on C define an extended C minor area. This material is repeated, intercut with paired chords of harmonics articulating last-position dominant sevenths of F (b. 13) and C (b. 18). These chords provide the harmonic template for the ensuing pizzicato texture, with the dominant sevenths replaced by diminished triads, presumably to avoid too strong a tonal pull. In the final subsection the scurrying figures are converted into an ostinato, providing a sense of sustained continuity for the first time. The ostinato underpins a tentative essaying of a melodic line in harmonics. The pitches of the melodic line, abstracted in Ex. 2, are forged from the overlapping 034 cells that are a feature of much late Bridge and which are prominent throughout the Trio-Rhapsody, as Kennett demonstrates, identifying the cell as Forte’s set 3–3 (it is especially evident in the equivocation of major and minor thirds at Figs. 3, 26, and 54).53 The cell has already been heard within the scurrying figures (in, for instance, the first-violin F–G–A♭–A♮ of bb. 9–10); the final subsection, Fig. 2+2 to Fig. 3, is replete with 034 forms, employed to articulate repeated one-bar descents through the cycle of major thirds (i.e. the augmented triad), C–G♯–E–C, across four octaves (see Ex. 3). C’s role in this descent as start- and endpoint, plus its metrical highlighting at the beginning of each bar, further promote its referential status. Ex. 1. View largeDownload slide Frank Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: first two subsections (to Fig. 1-1). Published by Faber Music Ltd, London Ex. 1. View largeDownload slide Frank Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: first two subsections (to Fig. 1-1). Published by Faber Music Ltd, London Ex. 2. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: 034 cells in violin 1 harmonics, Fig 1+4 – Fig. 2 Ex. 2. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: 034 cells in violin 1 harmonics, Fig 1+4 – Fig. 2 Ex. 3. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: descent through the cycle of major thirds articulated by 034 cells (Fig. 2+4 ff.) Ex. 3. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: descent through the cycle of major thirds articulated by 034 cells (Fig. 2+4 ff.) As one would expect, the music moves away from the C orbit in the main part of the work: D has more of a presence from Fig. 3, for instance, while the reference for the central section from Fig. 26 is G♯, as discussed below. Towards the end of the work, however, C emerges again. The approach to the coda between Figs. 49 and 51 is underpinned by the closest approach to orthodox tonal progression in the work: in a transposed reworking of Fig. 24 onwards, the viola’s open G quasi-pedal acts as V to the C-based chord of Fig. 51. The progression is repeated during the first six bars of Fig. 52, and a C pedal is maintained through the textural dissolution to Fig. 54. At this point C, in the form of the bald viola melodic C–G, momentarily escapes from the conflicting (again, D-oriented) pitches in the upper texture of the previous bars. Any sense of outcome is fleeting, however: the C and G are on the weaker second and third beats, and an F major–minor plane is immediately introduced in the second violin in the next bar, itself opposed by the harmony of the other instruments (as at Fig. 26, which it recalls transposed). The ending represents as much of a consolidation of C-as-centre as is plausible without destroying the tenor of elusiveness. The opening material returns, and, as at the beginning, sets off with a C minor scale-fragment. The closing gestures see the emergence of wholly diatonic chords, mostly derived from segments of the circle of fifths as outlined in Ex. 4 and rooted (or at least based) on V and I. The final chord acts as if catching the resonance of the C-based chord, the harmonics linking with the sonority (and, through the viola G, the pitch) of the opening bars. Ex. 4. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: emergence of wholly diatonic chords in the final bars Ex. 4. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: emergence of wholly diatonic chords in the final bars The longest stretch of pure diatonicism occurs from Fig. 29, in the central slow section extending to Fig. 35, which is itself an ABA structure. In the context of constantly shifting chromatic textures, this music of contemplation appears as an evocation of a lost idyll. The folk contours, melodic decoration, rolling triplet rhythms, second-violin drone, and the parallel fourths that underpin the viola and first-violin counterpoint—all these evoke a pastoral world. The mode is Phrygian G sharp, though it is only at the cadences at Fig. 30–2 and Fig. 32–2 that this is clarified: the viola and first violin are at odds with the G♯ drone at first, revolving more around Mixolydian B. The central section reintroduces chromaticism, incorporating 034 cells in the decoration (especially the three bars before Fig. 31), though the parallel fourths in the violins (now precisely aligned) maintain the folk ambience. The A section is modified texturally on its return at Fig. 32: there is no drone, and the second violin and viola accompaniment are again at odds with the first-violin melody. The accompaniment breaks off to leave the first violin to effect the most stable cadence in the work (at Fig. 33), quickly undermined though it is: there is merely a bar and a beat of consolidation before chromatic tensions are reintroduced and the idyll—broken though it is from the start54—dissolves. The mixture of chromaticism and diatonicism is markedly the other way around in Britten’s Rhapsody, which is much shorter (seven minutes as distinct from Bridge’s seventeen) and more compact, but stylistically rather anonymous. For such a young composer the pacing is particularly well judged, if hard-won: Britten made three versions of the work before he was satisfied. Much of the success in this kind of work lies in the control of ebb and flow, and perhaps Britten’s discussion of the Trio-Rhapsody with Bridge was helpful here: the ‘wind-down’ in preparation for the second theme at bar 85 and the control of harmonic tension in general is impressive. But if it can be said that, apart from the central slow section, Bridge tends to blur formal boundaries so that the distinction between statement and transition is minimized, if not dissolved (which might be what Britten means when he writes of melodies in late Bridge having ‘a curious conversation-like character’),55 this is far from the case with Britten’s Rhapsody: like all of his published output, the work is based on clearly defined sections, even if their formal function is sometimes ambiguous. The application here of the sort of formal diagram employed by Kennett for Bridge’s Rhapsody would be closer to the listening experience, and would be much less ramified because of the greater economy of material. Reinforcing this contrast with Bridge’s approach, there is a clear, stable tonal outcome (a carefully prepared C major triad ends the work), as well as distinct articulations of E minor (the first unambiguous key to emerge, at the cadence at b. 59) and E major (the second theme) along the way. Britten’s tighter approach to rhapsody is epitomized by the importation into the formal framework of aspects of sonata form’s dynamism: the second theme (which is stereotypically lyrical and long-breathed against the more striving first-theme material) is transposed to the closing tonic, C, on its reprise at bars 204 ff. (As it happens, Britten describes Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody as being ‘in a kind of extended sonata form’ in his programme note for the work, though this might be stretching the boundaries of formal flexibility beyond the limits that many are willing to allow.) As in Bridge’s Trio, the opening is oblique—it consists essentially of an elaboration of ii34 in D minor—but it is not especially unconventional harmonically. This same chord in a different inversion, ii56, provides the climax of the work at bars 244–5, heralding the reworked return of the opening and a coda settling into C. Strong demarcation of formal units is evident, too, in the best-known of Britten’s chamber-music juvenilia, the Quartettino, completed around nine months after his Rhapsody (in April 1930; it was published posthumously in 1983). There are some parallels with Bridge’s Third String Quartet (1926): both have three movements, the third beginning with reiterations of the work’s main motif, while Bridge’s first movement and Britten’s last both end with a vigorously asserted tonic stated in octaves (F♯ and C♯ respectively), coming again after energetic working of their main motifs. Their harmonic worlds are closer, too, the Quartettino representing Britten’s closest approach to total chromaticism. Similarities and differences between Bridge’s Third Quartet and Britten’s Quartettino can perhaps best be explored in the slow movements. To suggest that both inhabit a twilight world between tonality and atonality would be evocative, but misleading—if, indeed, such a state is possible. For in neither work is the denial of the possibility of some kind of rootedness entertained. To this extent Huss’s view that, in the Bridge, ‘much of the movement occupies a fluid harmonic sound-world, with pedal notes providing points of departure for harmonic exploration while giving the illusion of stability’56 seems precisely, if subtly, wrong: it is not so much an ‘illusion of stability’ as a desired state not quite being achieved. In Bridge’s movement, the beginning of which is reproduced as Ex. 5, the anchor-point, however tenuous, is a kind of A minor, hinted at in the fleeting V56 of Fig. 1+2 (on the last beat, sustained into the next bar) and almost emerging at Fig. 3 and in the concluding bars. The movement’s starting-point, though, is the so-called Bridge chord. First identified by Payne, this chord-type is formed by overlaying a major triad onto a minor triad whose root is a major second below; the triads are typically spatially separated.57 Here the triads are D minor and E major. The rest of the opening section, up to Fig. 3, elaborates, extends, and deconstructs the chord, and is worth examining in a little detail since it is typical of Bridge’s subtly organic mode of continuity. Ex. 5. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: opening Ex. 5. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: opening The Bridge chord first appears in slightly elaborated form: the initial first-violin figure employs a G♮ that clashes with the G♯ of the E major component. The G♮ then takes the role of the original sustained E in the next phrase and is in turn elaborated by B ♭, while the rest of the texture is made up of the original Bridge chord respaced. The cello pizzicato figure of bar 2 is extended in bar 4 to include G♯, and this abbreviated form of the Bridge chord (the fifth and third of the D minor triad, plus the third of E major) becomes the harmonic reference for the rest of section—at its original level in the first six bars of Fig. 1, and then transposed through a chain of thirds beginning in Fig. 1+7: F minor/G major, D minor/E major, B flat minor/C, G minor/A major.58 The last two links of the chain are repeated to articulate the end of the section. Meanwhile, the melodic material in the violins from Fig. 1+7 is drawn chiefly from scales associated with the underlying partial Bridge chords, with some chromaticism (for example, in the second violin part in the first two bars of Fig. 2). The scalic and near-scalic nature of the writing, plus the retention of the distinction between consonance and dissonance (at the beginning of each phrase the initial major second resolves either by the second violin moving a step down, in the manner of an appoggiatura, or by both parts moving by step to a fourth) ensure that the music remains within the hinterland of tonality. Instead of concluding, this first section wilts to a stop, the end-point of a long descent in the violins. Sectional inconclusiveness is a general tendency in the movement, and one of the ways in which its all-pervading melancholy is created. The next section, a mere four bars long, fails to conclude as well, veering away from the diatonicism of its first three bars (essentially A minor, as noted above, articulated most clearly in the bass V–i rotations, but avoiding straightforward tonic and dominant triads) to alight on a marooned C ♭ major-seventh chord before the music from Fig. 1 briefly returns. The movement’s form is fantasia-like: while it is possible to identify a number of motifs that are varied, extended, or transformed, the music is not developmental in the Austro-German sense. Various alternative ‘readings’ of the material act more as varied retakes than stages in a directed process, as in the reworking of Fig. 3 at Fig. 9, or of Fig. 1 at Fig. 10+3. Symptomatic of this approach is the arrival of the climax of the movement relatively early in the proceedings, articulated by the only (rather enigmatic) appearance of the work’s main motif at Fig. 8+5. The climax arises from an essentially local process, namely the increasing animation from Fig. 7 (particularly the intensifying floridity of the viola), but it has little consequence: as far as the rest of the movement is concerned, it might not have happened. Appropriately enough, the final bars of the movement, reproduced in Ex. 6, bring the sense of non-concluding to the greatest degree of focus as various elements from Fig. 11–6 are dismantled and drawn out. But the preceding passage, a reworking of Fig. 3+4 beginning at Fig. 13+6, also plays a part in forging the expressive mien—the melancholy of something sighted and desired but not obtained. The cello moves from V to I in A minor via a mixture of harmonic and melodic minor scales (enharmonically, E–F–F♯–G♯–A). Its A is then protracted, rising through three octaves, but the lines above conspicuously avoid coalescing into the A triad: see, for example, the alteration of the expected A to A♯ in the first violin in Fig. 14+2. Ex. 6. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: ending Ex. 6. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: ending The second movement of Britten’s Quartettino also resists settling onto its implied tonic triad in the closing bars, but comes much closer to doing so than the Bridge. As Ex. 7 shows, the final four bars are underpinned by a semitonal descent in the bass, finishing on a D♭ above which an added-sixth chord crystallizes (though this is perhaps too strong a word), supporting the C♯ endpoint of a long melodic descent in the first violin. D♭/C♯ is also the point of focus at bars 71 ff.—where a clear V–I, A♭–D♭ is preceded by D♮ as a flattened supertonic—and at the beginning of the movement, where the first chord, V7 of D flat, invokes the V7–i progression prolonged at the end of the preceding movement (even if, as there, there are numerous notes that cannot be readily subsumed into a D flat/C sharp tonal framework).59 In general, the music is more directed than in the Bridge: there is a greater incidence of chord-types approximating dominant sevenths, and bass lines pursue stepwise movement more purposefully (as in, for example, bb. 22 ff. and 27 ff., and, as we have seen, the last four bars). Indeed, Britten’s motivic material, a chain of interlocking thirds stated as an abstract shape without clef at the head of the score (see Ex. 8), guarantees a sense of moving forward, even if it is not always clear exactly where to (in other words, where the jumping-off point will be) or to what purpose. The form, too, is much more sharply delineated: a doubling of tempo and a change in texture signals the beginning of the B section, for instance, and the section’s conclusion is marked by fragmentation and a rallentando. The overall mood is also deeply melancholic, resulting most obviously from the yearning appoggiaturas derived from the motivic third-chain, as on the downbeat of bar 2. However, if the outer sections are characterized by lassitude, as in the Bridge, the B section approaches a melancholy of mania—of ultimately purposeless activity—when the fevered motivic activity fails to find an outcome, leading to collapse and the return to the opening. Ex. 7. View largeDownload slide Quartettino, second movement: ending. Music by Benjamin Britten © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved Ex. 7. View largeDownload slide Quartettino, second movement: ending. Music by Benjamin Britten © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved Ex. 8. View largeDownload slide Quartettino: motto at the head of the score. Music by Benjamin Britten. © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved Ex. 8. View largeDownload slide Quartettino: motto at the head of the score. Music by Benjamin Britten. © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved For Peter Evans the ‘triadic components’ of Bridge’s Third String Quartet ‘are still audible, but their centripetal powers are disowned by conflicting implications, not merely concealed by a network of appoggiaturas’.60 There are conflicting implications aplenty too in Bridge’s There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook for small orchestra (1927), an evocation of, and sorrowing response to, Ophelia’s death as described by Queen Gertrude at the end of Act IV, Sc. 7 of Hamlet. The work exemplifies in miniature Payne’s astute observation that Whereas the harmony of Ireland and Bax frequently sounds like a dissonant decoration of fundamentally simple chords, Bridge’s harmony grows from the interval structure of his chords. … At the same time Bridge saw the need for a new flexibility of rhythm and form to embody his splintered tonality: moods, textures and tempos fluctuate rapidly, trains of thought are initiated by a free association, and expansive sections give the impression of continuous evolution, reinforced by Bridge’s tendency to avoid exact repetition.61 Payne goes on to observe: ‘There is a willow progresses through a chain of sections with very little repetition, finding a perfect close in the final threnody.’ This suggests a much less patterned, less sectionalized approach than Britten’s. Yet there is a degree of focus—and a sense of overlaid triadic components anchoring the texture, providing an exception to Evans’s rule—which might explain Britten’s particular fondness for the work. This fondness was expressed not so much in words as in Britten’s act of transcribing There is a Willow twice—once for viola and piano in 1932, as mentioned above, and then for reduced forces for the first Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The viola and piano transcription was made after Britten attended a choreographed performance on 4 December 1932 (he had earlier heard a live performance in the BBC’s Waterloo Studio on 31 March 1931).62 The arrangement’s success has much to do with the centrality of passages in the original in which the texture divides into tune-plus-accompaniment (the ‘snatches of old tunes’ referred to in Queen Gertrude’s speech, perhaps): see, for example, bars 17 ff.—echoed at bars 74 ff.—and bars 53 ff., as well as the Lamentoso saraband (Payne’s threnody) from bar 81. The tune of the latter was scored by Bridge for lower strings, and most of the material taken by the viola in the transcription is played at the original pitch, with movement into the higher registers—as at bars 97 ff.—further intensifying the already strained quality of the lyricism. The viola was not only Bridge’s instrument but Britten’s, too (albeit his second, after the piano), suggesting a further element of tribute. There is no evidence of them playing the transcription together, but one imagines that may have been Britten’s intention, even if only as a try-out. The Lamentoso section, the beginning of which in Britten’s transcription is reproduced as Ex. 9, is the work’s centre of gravity. The harmony is focused on one chord for the first six bars, with brief deflections, but it roams widely thereafter. No alternative reference point is set up, however, and the return to the initial chord in advance of the coda (which begins at b. 105) has a sense of resigned inevitability, sustained to the end. Partly this results from a more long-term return, to the overlaid C♯ minor and D♯ major triads of bars 14 ff., which are the enharmonic equivalent of the overlaid D♭ minor and E♭ major triads of bars 81 ff. These of course form the Bridge chord, and of all its originator’s usages, this is the one with the most defined and intense affect, embodying a profound lugubriousness. The focused intensity and essential simplicity here, reinforced by the harmony being drawn almost entirely from the Bridge chord replicated at various transpositional levels, represents the closest that Bridge came to Britten’s ideal, expressed in 1963, of ‘tear[ing] all the waste away’.63 Ex. 9. View largeDownload slide Bridge, There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, transcribed Britten: beginning of Lamentoso section. Ex. 9. View largeDownload slide Bridge, There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, transcribed Britten: beginning of Lamentoso section. Bridge’s music is sometimes referred to as bitonal. Payne, for example, remarks: ‘What made the Piano Sonata such an extraordinary achievement was the energy and determination with which Bridge withstood the pull of conventional tonal language, and developed logically a bitonal harmonic texture throughout large-scale structures.’64 It is certainly the case that textures in late Bridge are often layered, with discrete harmonic units set against each other (as at the beginning of the Piano Sonata, where a series of first-inversion triads is set against a G♯ pedal distributed across three octaves). In There is a Willow, however, the Bridge chord, which certainly could be susceptible to bitonal treatment (in other words, it could conceivably be split into constituent elements that are then set against each other) is fused into a single entity. Matters are different in Bridge’s ‘Concerto Elegiaco’ for Cello and Orchestra, Oration (1930), perhaps because the range of available timbres allows the distinction between layers to be made more effectively: for instance, the sustained chord at Fig. 3+3, in which a C major triad in the strings is set against an F♯ triad in the horns. A sense of bitonal conflict is most sustained, though, in the mismeshing between the bass and the parallel triadic movement in the upper part of the texture in the climactic Lento march from Fig. 33. Though there were other models of bitonality, or dissonant layering, available to Britten in Bridge’s oeuvre, it seems plausible that Oration was the main source for his own layering strategies, not least in his best-known tribute to his teacher. The Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10 (1937) was the second work Britten dedicated to Bridge (before that there was his first published composition, the Sinfonietta, Op. 1 (1932)): the score is headed ‘To F. B. A tribute with affection and admiration’. As Mervyn Cooke seems to have been the first to point out, in an essay on pitch symbolism,65 the work begins with a more coded tribute: the top pitches of the opening chords of F major and E major state Bridge’s initials. The theme is drawn from the second of the Three Idylls, published in 1906, specifically from the opening thirty-two bars, the A section of the ternary form, which consists of a sixteen-bar statement (Ex. 10) followed by a decorated version. As is now well known, following the publication of a note at the beginning of the composition sketch, each variation was intended to portray an aspect of Bridge’s character: [Introduction and Theme] To F.B.—himself [Adagio] His understanding His integrity [March] His energy [Romance] His charm [Aria Italiana] His wit [Bourrée Classique] His tradition [Wiener Waltzer] His enthusiasm gaiety [Moto Perpetuo] His vitality enthusiasm [Funeral March] His sympathy (understanding) [Chant] His reverence [Fugue] His skill [Finale] Our affection66 A more esoteric tribute can be found in the latter part of the Fugue (from Fig. 35), where the unison melodic line played by the quartet over the proliferating stretti quotes material from Bridge works Britten particularly admired, including Enter Spring, ‘Seascape’ (from The Sea), the first movement from the Second Piano Trio, Summer, and There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook.67 Ex. 10. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Idyll No. 2: opening 16 bars, short score Ex. 10. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Idyll No. 2: opening 16 bars, short score The speed with which Britten had to work on the commission, for the Boyd Neel orchestra, has often been noted.68 His diaries suggest he started work on 5 June: ‘Work and odd jobs—including sketching bit of F.B. Variations (for Salzburg?).’ The full score was completed by 12 July.69 Perhaps the time scale dictated his choice of this particular theme, for he had already written an incomplete set of variations on it for piano, on 6–9 March 1932.70 The Op. 10 set is completely different in its treatment, but he had obviously thought about the theme’s possibilities already, and after the aborted attempt probably possessed a sharper idea of what would work and what would not (even though the different medium obviously demanded a different approach). Britten had acquired the score of the Idylls in August 1930 (it is no. 97 in his numbered catalogue of miniature scores), and he heard them on the wireless on 16 October 1932: ‘After supper write letters, & listen to Spenser Dyke Quart. playing Beethoven F min quart. (sure a wonder of the world) & Bridge 3 Idylls (marvels in another way).’71 It is an early score: why was Britten drawn to this rather than a later, more radical work? Possibly it was the potential for extending further the motivic working, enumerated in an annotated score by Evans,72 but harmonically it seems to have offered little: as Evans notes, the ‘vocabulary of sevenths and thirteenths has too strong a period flavour to offer much to Britten’s variation procedures’,73 and while Britten had already shown an interest in tonal ambiguity, it was of a different kind from that on display here. Evans lists the succession of ambiguous tonal allusions as follows: ‘E minor (or A minor?), E flat, E minor V, E flat (or E flat minor) V, C sharp minor (or F sharp minor?), C (via B flat V7?)—E minor.’ It is indeed the case that, apart from the final tonic triad, all the chords are either sevenths or thirteenths. Resolutions tend not to be conclusive but to result in chains of flatwards-moving dissonance: thus the ii7 of bar 4 and the V13 of bar 7 (which are the first clear pointers towards a key) both slip down a semitone to create further dissonances. The cello motion to A in bar 9 might momentarily suggest the quitting of the preceding chord as a German Sixth, but the chord that forms above it is a transposition of the opening, the initiator of a sequence. All of this might suggest standard post-Wagnerian practice, but the sense of striving—of sighting and aiming for mid- or long-range goals—associated with late nineteenth-century German Romanticism is suppressed: the cadence is not a mini-triumph of arrival but a return to the pp of the opening sigh. Indeed, the flatwards movement and a preponderance of descending melodic movement (invoking the topic of lament) suggests the ambience is rather more than that of a merely ‘faintly wistful air’.74 The mood is epitomized by the opening, sighing gesture: the V13/ii in the rarely employed last position (i.e. with the thirteenth in the bass) and without the seventh (in four-part harmony the fifth of the chord would usually be omitted) resolves unconventionally, with the thirteenth leaping a tritone. Thus a sense of progression is defused, and a clear definition of a tonal centre eschewed. Britten’s preface to the theme could hardly be further from all this. It is based on Bridge’s first chord but thoroughly transforms its function and effect. In the light of Bridge’s later development, the chord could be thought of as incipiently bitonal: two layers are segregated through staggered timing, a V–i progression in A minor in the upper three instruments placed a beat behind a more ambiguous layer in the cello. It is debatable whether it is really heard in this layered fashion (V13 is the more straightforward option for the ear), but this is how Britten chooses to present it: he interprets the first chord as E major versus V of F, so that, as Evans notes, ‘the tonal friction is of Britten’s favourite semitone variety’.75 E major fanfares and rushes of E major scales are inflected by F-triad elements and underpinned by a C pedal. The resulting brilliance is such that when Bridge’s theme is faded in, the last notes of the first two of its phrases have to be extended by Britten into an extra bar to allow the fanfare’s energy to be dissipated. Generally speaking, it is the motivic material that is drawn upon for the variations. Other aspects Britten makes use of include extended semitonal movement (particularly in the bass, the voice in which it is most prominent in the theme: see especially ‘Adagio’, ‘March’, ‘Bourrée Classique’, and ‘Finale’, where there is a full chromatic descent, missing out C♯, beginning at Fig. 41) and the augmented sixth of the final cadence, which is reworked at the end of most of the variations. All of the variations except the first (‘Adagio’) and the lento e solenne section of the ‘Finale’ from Fig. 40 are character pieces, in accordance with Britten’s preoccupation at that time.76 Their moods usually contrast strongly with the theme. Those of ‘Adagio’ and ‘Finale’ (‘His integrity’ and ‘Our affection’), however, are closer. ‘Adagio’ makes particular play of the cello’s C–F♯ in the theme’s opening, alternating triads built on those pitch-classes. Much of the subsequent harmony is bound together by semitonal voice-leading: there is much less use of functional harmony than in the theme, though the latter part of the structure prolongs V–I in C.77 The effect is contemplative, but with sustained tension in the harmony: there is a greater sense of arrival or achievement (though still at a low dynamic level) at Britten’s final C major chord than in any of Bridge’s cadences. ‘Finale’ is perhaps the most heartfelt tribute to Bridge that Britten could have conceived: after donning various masks, he finally unveils his most personal music, displaying for Bridge the full extent of what his teaching has enabled. Taking the theme at its original transpositional level, he reworks the rhythm within a 4/4 framework, sometimes extending it to 3/2, with a more dynamic syncopated, accelerating chordal undertow. Of the greatest significance, however, is the reharmonization in D major (much of the harmony is chromatic, but the D major announced at the opening of the section and confirmed at the cadences is extended rather than challenged). The major mode enables a warmer sound overall than Bridge’s extended E minor, while D major happens to fit the theme better than E major. In any case D major is more resonant than E because of the open strings available to the tonic triad, especially if the open E string is added, as in the peroration from Fig. 43. In fact D major does have a role in the second Idyll: the B section starts in that key with the most assertive, outgoing gesture thus far in the piece, though the mode is immediately qualified (there is a shift to the Phrygian) and E—this time major—is restored for the third iteration of the opening gesture; the somewhat disassociated endpoint of the section is E flat. Britten’s subjugation of E is nowhere more to the fore than in the events from two bars before Fig. 43, where the pitch-classes of Bridge’s cadential approach, F♮ and D♯ (spelt enharmonically as E♭), are presented as wispy harmonics before progressing to the dissonant E♮ that resolves to D at the end of the work. The use of harmonics here is a reference to the last event of the second Idyll, the E octave in harmonics, which could not provide a greater contrast of effect. Bridge’s coda—his final fourteen bars—is the antithesis of Britten’s celebratory mode: the initial octave transposition marks the beginning of a passage of resigned fragmentation: the movement’s original cadential gesture—the German Sixth shifting with the bass movement to a dominant seventh with flattened fifth, as discussed above—is shorn of its resolution and is moved inertly and sorrowfully (the cello’s pianto descent is marked dolente) through the cycle of major thirds. The triumphalism of Britten’s D major can be interpreted as having more than purely musical significance. D had already announced itself as Britten’s favourite tonal centre, in Sinfonietta, Op. 1, A Boy was Born, Op. 3, ‘Sailing’ from Holiday Diary, Op. 5 (music that Evans sees as achieving ‘a wholly personal sonority for the first time’78), and much of Our Hunting Fathers. The back of the composition sketch for Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge contains a discarded sketch for ‘Let the florid music praise!’, the first song of On this Island, Op. 11, a work that starts and ends in D major, though ‘Let the florid … ’ itself ends in a rather more subdued G minor. Britten’s association with the key is reinforced in his next major work, the Piano Concerto, Op. 13 (1938), and then in a series of works completed in North America—the Violin Concerto, Op. 15 (though its ending is modally equivocal), Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20 (1940), Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22 (1940), and the First String Quartet, Op. 25 (1941), about which Britten wrote to Elizabeth Mayer, ‘The Quartet is in 4 movements … & in—would you believe it?—D major!!’. So perhaps as well as being a tribute, the work is simultaneously an Oedipal act, Britten’s brilliant compositional athleticism obliterating Bridge’s music in the swagger of the final bars and the certainty of the unison D.79 It so happens that there was a degree of strain between Britten and his mentor around the time the Variations were composed, as Bridge’s comments on the opening of On this Island mentioned above might suggest. Two months after the Variations were completed, one of Bridge’s ‘circle’, Marjorie Fass, wrote about the tensions that Britten’s new work (completed on 12 October 1937 and given its first performance on 19 November) had caused: As Franco got out of his car he muttered to me that never again wld he try to help Benjy over his work, as some of the things he pointed out, the boy simply wldn’t alter, so why waste his time & energy? And as I drove home with Benjy & asked if he’d had a good afternoon he said he’d had to ‘stick up for himself’ a thing he’d never done before with Mr Brit—so I said that was allright, but surely it was of value to him to have Mr Brit’s criticism & he said, ‘Yes, but they’re my songs’ & I said ‘certainly, but since Mr Brit knows so infinitely more about music than you do I shld have thought his wisdom & experience were worth your accepting’ which left spoilt young Benjy in a silent temper—& I had to have quite a light hand over everything at dinner & afterwards & didn’t touch again on his work.80 We have already noted Britten’s criticisms of Bridge’s Second Piano Trio in his diary for February 1936 (whether or not he actually voiced these to Bridge is not known). 1937 sees him continuing to distance himself. On 1 March 1937 he wrote, rather patronizingly: Grand Conversations—he is a fine thinker, but not so domineering as to prevent any observations from myself. I feel that he has a rather precious & escapist view of art—but that is typical of his generation—& eminently excusable. But his enthusiasm for music & his understanding of the classics is a tremendous virtue.81 And on 26 October, between On this Island’s completion and its first performance, he states a rare overtly negative view: Frank conducts a concert at BBC in the evening, including his Sea Suite (which pleases me enormously—although it’s not as interesting as the later stuff) & Blow out you bugles—which of course has good things in it, but even tho’ I’m so fond of him, I dislike it—partly because of the pompous sentiment of the words (Brooke), & because as music it’s not my ‘cup of tea’.82 Britten’s Piano Concerto, completed in July 1938, seems to have been received as unfavourably as On this Island, if the letter from Fass to Daphne Oliver after the first performance on 18 August accurately represents Bridge’s views too: I expect you’ll have been as disappointed in Benjy’s work as we were. … The orchestra and Wood liked the work very much—as it’s amusing to play—& every orchestral device is employed with brilliance—but of music or [illegible: ?originality] there is no trace—And if Benjy develops some day later on, he will see the insignificance of this work as it must be to all real musicians.83 A few days later (22 August) she was writing again, observing ‘we all utterly agree with the drastic criticism of The Times & Sunday Times & Observer & Telegraph’,84 the latter opining that Britten’s ‘writing is extremely facile and, if anything, too brilliant. … Mr Britten will do better things and more substantial things when his thoughts turn, as they must, to matter rather than manner.’85 The critic of The Times draws attention to the satire, which is a dangerous element in music. For one thing it sets the hearer on his guard against taking anything at its face value. For instance, is the end of the third movement, which is rather commonplace in its romanticism, meant seriously, or is the composer’s tongue still in his cheek, as it is during the first part of the movement?86 As it happens, Britten later replaced the third movement with music that can be taken at face value. His proclivity for satire emerged during his work with Auden and his colleagues in his theatre and film work, and first surfaced in his concert work in another collaboration with the poet, Our Hunting Fathers. The guying of received styles or manners is of course a central ingredient of the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, though without the political edge, however implicit, of Our Hunting Fathers or the Piano Concerto. Satire and irony were not a major part of Bridge’s make-up (we know from Britten’s diaries that Bridge disliked the arch ironist Mahler),87 though the tone of the Piano Sonata and, especially, the wry distortions of march topics in Oration can be seen as exceptions. It seems to have been the Piano Concerto that prompted this undated remark to Britten of Bridge’s: ‘I have been wishing for a long time that the art of composition would soon be a part of your subconscious self, instead of an “also ran” with poets in a political net.’88 Although the spat occasioned by On this Island concerned the first song, it is conceivable, given this comment, that it was the general tone—and in particular the facetiousness of the last song—that most irked Bridge. It would be interesting, though, to know what he thought of the critics’ attacks on his pupil’s supposed surfeit of ‘manner’, given the value he placed on technique and the amount of time he’d spent on emphasizing and developing this in him. Less than a year after the first performance of the Piano Concerto, Britten left for North America (on 29 April 1939). There is no record of him discussing his emigration with Bridge, who waved him off from the dockside,89 though one imagines that he must have done so. There had been considerable change in Britten’s life: his mother had died before he completed the Variations, on 31 January 1937, and he had met Peter Pears on 6 March, though it wasn’t until February 1938 that they moved into a flat together.90 And Auden had already replaced Bridge as Britten’s chief artistic exemplar. Bridge continued to assist Britten—in providing a letter of introduction to his patron, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, for example, whom Britten contacted on 18 September 1939 just after his arrival in New York. He writes the warmest of tributes: Our beloved Benjamin Britten, that young friend, pupil, and quasi-adopted son of whom you have heard us talk very often, and who is probably the outstanding composer of the present young men here, has been in Canada and we now hear he is going to New York. I am sure you would like him … and I do so hope a meeting materialises. I am so anxious that you should meet him through me, because he is a part of me!!91 On 3 November 1940, after hearing that Coolidge had commissioned Britten to write his First String Quartet, Bridge wrote to her: ‘I am awfully pleased to know this, and in my view, he is one of the few young composers that really count. I could enlarge upon this only too easily, but to find Benjamin Britten in the company of all the other composers who have written works for you gives me an especial delight.’92 Bridge died a little over two months later, on 20 January 1941. Britten wrote to Coolidge ten days later offering to participate in a memorial concert if she was arranging one.93 conclusion The month before Britten completed his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, its dedicatee began his Fourth String Quartet, his first substantial work since the Violin Sonata of 1932. Several commentators have remarked on the ‘classicist tendency’ of the work and of the later period in general,94 a classicism that is supported in part by more focused textures and a more explicit role for tonality. Evans observes of the Quartet: ‘The eventual arrival at a glowingly affirmative D major with added 2nd (adumbrated at the close of the first movement) is entirely convincing.’95 (In fact the final chord of the work contains an added sixth, too, so that the whole chord is a segment of the circle of fifths, though unlike previous examples in the movement—Figs 5–2, 6+3, 8, and so on—where the fifths are piled on top of each other, the spacing is constructed so as to enhance the triad.) Huss’s suggestion that the classicistic aspects ‘point towards Bridge’s admiration for Stravinsky’s more recent music, notably the Symphony of Psalms’96 is hard fully to accept (there is little in the work that seems specifically Stravinskian), though there is no doubting that he knew Symphony of Psalms. As Britten noted in his diary, they discussed it in 1934: ‘H.B. comes to dinner—have much int. talk & gramophone after—esp. Stravinsky Symphonie des Psaumes & Beethoven Mass in D—both incredible masterpieces.’97 However, Huss’s speculation that ‘the wide stylistic range of Britten’s music (not least in the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge … )’ might have ‘provided a stimulus in this last period’98 is more plausible, despite the overlap in the works’ composition: the ‘glow’ that Evans refers to is of the essence in the final variation of Britten’s tribute, and of course its key is D major. While, as Huss observes, it is ‘difficult to speculate how [Bridge’s] style might have developed had he lived to compose more’,99 it is surely unlikely, given Bridge’s disapproval of some aspects of Britten’s compositional direction at the time, that a substantial debt to Britten’s approach would have accrued: there seems no reason to substantially revise Banfield’s assertion quoted in the first paragraph that they are very different composers. If Bridge’s most characteristic utterances work chiefly through evocation, Britten’s expression is more defined (even the ambiguities are more sharply etched), the eclecticism more forthright. Nevertheless, whether Bridge intended it or not (which is unrecoverable, of course), we might regard the ending of the Fourth Quartet as a fleeting closing of the circle of one of the most fruitful master–pupil relationships in English music. Footnotes 1 Mark Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”? Frank Bridge and the Cultural Practice of Music in Britain, 1900–1941’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Oxford, 2009), 2. The phrase ‘on his own terms’ might be problematic, invoking the intentional fallacy, but Amos’s meaning is clear enough. 2 Reproduced in Paul Kildea, Britten on Music (New York, 2003), 250–3. 3 Stephen Banfield, review of Paul Hindmarsh, Frank Bridge: A Thematic Catalogue 1900–1941 and Lewis Foreman, Bax: A Composer and His Times, in Music & Letters, 66 (1985), 183–5 at 184. As Amos points out, while Britten stated that he was Bridge’s only pupil, ‘Bridge also taught composition at various stages, giving lessons to the Australian Robert Dalley-Scarlett, and later, to the American composer Bernard Rogers and the English violinist Remo Lauricella’: Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”?’, 96–7. 4 For Britten see Peter Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten (2nd edn., London, 1989), and Christopher Mark, Early Benjamin Britten: A Study of Stylistic and Technical Evolution (New York: Garland, 1995); and for Bridge Anthony Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge (London, 1976), and Fabian Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge (Woodbridge, 2015). 5 Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”?’, 216–17. 6 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 167. 7 See Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”?’, 219 ff. 8 Quoted in Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 169. 9 Ibid. 159. 10 Kildea, Britten on Music, 24–7. 11 Ibid. 27. 12 Ibid. 31–5. 13 See Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 18–19. 14 Kildea, Britten on Music, 31. 15 Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 18–19. 16 Ibid. 19, 22. 17 Jeremy Dibble notes that Stanford ‘strenuously advocated Brahms as a compositional paradigm’; see Jeremy Dibble, ‘Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers’, Grove Music Online (www.oxfordmusiconline.com) (accessed 24 Apr. 2017). 18 Anthony Payne, Frank Bridge: Radical and Conservative (London, 1999), 12–13. Huss observes that ‘Brahmsian aesthetics remained an important influence on the formalist modernism of Bridge’s later music’: see The Music of Frank Bridge, 11. 19 Anthony Payne et al., ‘Bridge, Frank’, Grove Music Online (accessed 2 Oct. 2015). 20 Britten’s script is reproduced in Kildea, Britten on Music, 75–7. 21 Ibid. 75. 22 Ibid. 76. 23 Ibid. 251–2. 24 Ibid. 252. 25 Ibid. 251. 26 Britten’s diary for 30 Apr. 1930 records a ‘modern music’ evening at Britten’s parents’ home in Lowestoft at which an unnamed piece by Scriabin was played, but it is clear that he is more interested in Schoenberg’s Sechs Kleine Stücke, Op. 19, the score of which he had recently acquired. Britten’s diary-writing syntax is such that it isn’t clear who the pianist was for either work. See John Evans, Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 1928–1938 (London, 2009), 37. 27 Kildea, Britten on Music, 253. 28 The first performance was on 19 Nov. 1937, three days short of his twenty-fourth birthday. 29 Kildea, Britten on Music, 394. 30 Ibid. 396. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 395. 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. 396–7. 35 Ibid. 397. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid. 398. 39Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten, 1913–1976, i: 1923–1939, ed. Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed (London, 1991); ii: 1939–1945, ed. Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed (London, 1991); iii: 1946–51, ed. Donald Mitchell, Philip Reed, and Mervyn Cooke (London, 2004); iv: 1952–1957, ed. Philip Reed, Mervyn Cooke, and Donald Mitchell (Woodbridge, 2008); v: 1958–1965, ed. Philip Reed and Mervyn Cooke (Woodbridge, 2010); vi: 1966–1976, ed. Philip Reed and Mervyn Cooke (Woodbridge, 2012); Evans, Journeying Boy. 40Letters from a Life, i. 584. 41 Evans, Journeying Boy, 58, 72, and 125. 42 Ibid. 152. 43Letters from a Life, i. 223. (This entry is not in Journeying Boy.) 44 Evans, Journeying Boy, 98; Letters from a Life, i. 250 (not in Journeying Boy); Evans, Journeying Boy, 107; Letters from a Life, i. 267 (not in Journeying Boy). 45 Kildea, Britten on Music, 76–7. 46 Evans, Journeying Boy, 332. 47 Ibid. 428. 48 Some of these are discussed in the second chapter, ‘Background, Royal College of Music and Early Works’, of Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 44–77. 49 Christian Kennett, ‘The Harmonic Species of Frank Bridge: An Experimental Assessment of the Applicability of Pitch-Class Generic Theory to Analysis of a Corpus of Works by a Transitional Composer’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Reading, 1995), 273. 50 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 183; Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 73; Peter Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’, in Stephen Banfield (ed.), The Blackwell History of Music in Britain: The Twentieth Century (Oxford, 1995), 179–277 at 242. 51 ‘The later works have no clear keys’; programme note on the Third String Quartet in Kildea, Britten on Music, 397. 52 Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 73. 53 Kennett, ‘The Harmonic Species of Frank Bridge’, 273–4. Huss notes that ‘The level of motivic integration is unparalleled elsewhere in his output’; The Music of Frank Bridge, 182. 54 For a discussion of the broken idyll, see Reinhold Brinkmann, Late Idyll: The Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms, trans. Peter Palmer (Cambridge, Mass., 1995). (Paul Hopwood describes this section as a ‘pastoral oasis’ which contains ‘unsettling indications that something is amiss’: see Paul Hopwood, ‘Frank Bridge and the English Pastoral Tradition’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Western Australia, 2007), 263.) 55 Kildea, Britten on Music, 397. 56 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 150. 57 Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 67. 58 What Britten identified as the main motif of the work is also an abbreviated Bridge chord: thus the C–E♭–G–F♯ at the beginning of the third movement is the C minor triad and the mediant of the D major triad. 59 Mark, Early Benjamin Britten, 29–30. 60 Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’, 242. 61 Anthony Payne et al., ‘Bridge, Frank’. 62 Evans, Journeying Boy, 69. 63 Kildea, Britten on Music, 227. 64 Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 62. 65 Mervyn Cooke, ‘Be Flat or be Natural? Pitch Symbolism in Britten’s Operas’, in Philip Ernst Rupprecht (ed.), Rethinking Britten (New York, 2013), 102–30 at 122. 66Letters from a Life, i. 502. The manuscript is available to view on the British Library’s Digitized Manuscripts webpages, www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_60597. 67Letters from a Life, i. 503. 68 See Boyd Neel’s description of the circumstances, ibid. 501–2. 69 Its composition is traced in the diary extracts reproduced ibid. 500–1. 70 Incipits of the Theme and six variations are available in the beta version of the Britten Thematic Catalogue on the Britten–Pears Foundation website, at www.brittenproject.org/works/BTC741. 71 Evans, Journeying Boy, 118. 72 Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten, 40–1. 73 Ibid. 74 Ibid. 40; my italics. 75 Ibid. 41. 76 See, for example, the Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6 (1935), Temporal Variations for oboe and piano (1936), and the Piano Concerto, Op. 13 (1938). 77 See Mark, Early Britten, 134, Ex. 51. 78 Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten, 26. 79 This was first proposed in Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 28. 80Letters from a Life, i. 25. It is not clear to whom the letter was addressed. 81 Evans, Journeying Boy, 413. 82 Ibid. 459–60. 83Letters from a Life, i. 576–7. 84 Ibid. 577. 85 Ibid. 577–8. 86 Ibid. 579. 87 Evans, Journeying Boy, 49. 88Letters From a Life, i. 441. 89 Stephen Banfield, ‘“Too Much of Albion”? Mrs. Coolidge and her British Connections’, American Music, 4 (1986), 59–88 at 79. 90 Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 31–3. 91Letters from a Life, ii. 699. 92 Ibid. 940. 93 Ibid. 905. 94 Huss cites Hindmarsh and Payne in The Music of Frank Bridge, 200; see also Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’. 95 Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’, 244. 96 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 200. 97 Evans, Journeying Boy, 223. 98 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 204. 99 Ibid. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Music and Letters Oxford University Press

Bridge and Britten, Britten and Bridge

Music and Letters , Volume Advance Article (1) – May 15, 2018

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0027-4224
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Abstract

Abstract Britten and Bridge have been bracketed together since Britten’s tribute to his teacher in his fiftieth-birthday reminiscence. It was largely through Britten’s endeavours that Bridge’s name was kept alive during the forties and fifties, through the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, while Britten’s programming of Bridge’s music in Aldeburgh Festival concerts and the publication of select late scores by his own publisher, Faber Music, led the revival of interest in the music. Mark Amos suggests that ‘an unhooking from Britten and his inherent cultural baggage is now essential if we are to understand Bridge on his own terms’. The contention in this essay, though, is that there is still something to be learned about Bridge through Britten, through what Britten writes about him, and especially through an examination of the music they both composed during and immediately after Britten’s apprenticeship. The reception of Frank Bridge’s music in the years since his death in 1941 has been so closely bound up with the figure of Benjamin Britten that Mark Amos has suggested that ‘an unhooking from Britten and his inherent cultural baggage is now essential if we are to understand Bridge on his own terms’.1 The desire for such an ‘unhooking’ of the two composers is hardly surprising. To the general musical public—and to many professional musicians, too—Bridge is probably still best known as Britten’s teacher, and his own music has often been viewed simply as one of Britten’s compositional pushing-off points. There is also the circumstance that much of the rehabilitation of Bridge’s music after his death in 1941 came about through Britten’s agency. This was manifest in several prominent ways. Britten programmed him in the Aldeburgh Festival (the first Festival in 1948 included the Phantasy Quartet); he encouraged the publication of Bridge’s key later works when he moved to a new publisher, Faber Music, in 1964; he recorded the Cello Sonata with Rostropovich in 1969; he promoted the qualities of Bridge’s music in speeches, interviews, and his rare ventures onto the printed page, especially in his fiftieth-birthday reminiscence ‘Britten looking Back’, published in the Sunday Telegraph of 17 November 1963 (this is in fact entirely about his relationship with his teacher);2 and he based what was to become one of his most popular works on a Bridge theme (the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10 of 1937). Yet even a nodding acquaintance with the music of both composers should prompt recognition of their considerable differences. As Stephen Banfield observes in his review of Frank Bridge: A Thematic Catalogue 1900–1941 by Paul Hindmarsh, The Bridges, who had no children, came to view Frank’s sole composition pupil Benjamin Britten almost as a son, yet although this teacher–pupil relationship is of considerable historic significance it must surely become clearer as time goes on that their musical thought has very little in common. Britten and Bridge are poles apart in their relation to musical tradition.3 Not only were they both strong musical personalities, they were members of different generations, both of which were witness to, and shaped by, substantial political, societal, and technological change. The customary approach to their relationship is to see how Bridge influenced Britten, but my contention in this essay is that there is a good deal to be learned about Bridge by reversing the perspective. This I shall pursue through discussion of Britten’s writings and interview comments, but also (perhaps more precisely) by comparing the two composers’ music during the years of Britten’s tutelage and immediately after, up to the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, a work that represents Britten’s signing off his apprenticeship: it is a tribute to his teacher but also, I shall argue, an Oedipal confrontation. Comparison of their outputs of this period throws up interesting differences within the similarities. Both maintained an investment in tonality, for instance, but in markedly different ways. And while Bridge’s sponsorship by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge from 1923 freed him from the vicissitudes of the market, Britten needed to generate income when he left the Royal College of Music. This had divergent consequences for their music. In particular, the type of modernism Britten found sympathetic was different from that which appealed to Bridge. To progressive spirits of Bridge’s generation, who came to maturity with an essentially Germanic late-Romantic mode of utterance, the ramping-up of chromaticism and the loosening of the bonds of traditional tonal structuring represented a clear means of exploring new expressive territory, which for Bridge (as for much of the music of the Second Viennese School, especially before the advent of serialism) meant the maximization of interiority. For Britten, starting out in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the range of available radicalizing exemplars was larger, and included the recontextualizing of the vocabulary and techniques of common-practice tonality seen in neoclassical Stravinsky and Les Six. Needing to face outwards for commercial as well as artistic reasons, Britten embraced an eclecticism that supported a greater expressive range. I begin with Britten’s comments on Bridge—those he wrote for publication as well as those found in his diaries and letters. I give special consideration to his views on Bridge’s stylistic development and his assessment of one of Bridge’s finest works, the Second Piano Trio. Comparison of the two composers’ approaches during Britten’s formative period involves works by Bridge with which Britten is known to have had contact, including the Three Idylls, Third String Quartet, There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, the Trio-Rhapsody, and, more fleetingly, the Second Piano Trio and Oration. While the works and movements I have chosen for comparison are significant within their composers’ outputs and their developments, the principal criterion for their selection is the capacity to illuminate similarities and differences in their compositional concerns during a relatively short period, 1927–37. There is a good deal of literature tracing Britten’s development; less on Bridge.4 It is useful briefly to contextualize the main body of this essay by noting general aspects of both composers’ outputs in the ten years under investigation. Works from the period are listed in Table 1; those examined in detail are set in bold. Bridge’s output is presented complete; Britten’s is more selective because of the volume of pieces, particularly of juvenilia, that he produced. Table 1 Britten’s and Bridge’s works 1927–37 Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Table 1 Britten’s and Bridge’s works 1927–37 Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Date Bridge Britten 1927 Impression: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (orch.) Rhapsody: Enter Spring String Quartet No. 3 Hidden Fires (pno.) 1928 Trio-Rhapsody (2 vn., va.) Quatre Chansons Françaises (sop., orch.) Gargoyle (pno.) 1929 Piano Trio No. 2 Rhapsody (str. qt.) 1930 Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (vc., orch.) Quartettino 1931 Rhapsody: Phantasm (pno, orch) String Quartet in D major 1932 Violin Sonata Sinfonietta, op. 1 (ch orch)Phantasy Quartet, op. 2 (ob., vn., va. vc.) 1933 A Boy was Born, Op. 3 (chorus) 1935 Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6 1936 Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (sop., orch.) 1937 String Quartet No. 4 Temporal Variations (ob., pno.) Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (str.) 1938 Divertimenti (fl., ob., cl., bn.) Piano Concerto Bridge’s list consolidates and extends his interest in the more radical developments of continental European music first witnessed in the Piano Sonata (1924). Two points of clarification are useful. First, Bridge is not so unconcerned with success with an audience as my comment above that his sponsorship by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge ‘freed him from the vicissitudes of the market’ might have suggested, and secondly, because of his pursuit in at least one of the works of a broad reception, his language is not uniformly progressive. While the chamber works often attract the epithet ‘experimental’ and explore harmonic and expressive resources more likely at that time to engage Austro-Germans than Britons, Bridge clearly had no desire to become a recluse. As Amos points out, Enter Spring, commissioned for the Norwich Triennial Festival and partly conceived to further his ambitions as a conductor, is an attempt to replicate the great success of his orchestral suite The Sea (1910) at the 1924 Festival.5 The genre and general mood are ‘pitched towards Norwich and similar openings, with a view to making the work speak to its likely audiences’. The contrast in tone with There is a Willow is striking, yet Fabian Huss suggests that the latter—which was composed during a break in the composition of Enter Spring—‘may have been conceived initially as a section of the larger work’. He also notes, after Hindmarsh, that ‘the short score of There is a Willow is interleaved with the full score of Enter Spring, at the point when the latter reaches a pedal G sharp (the opening note of There is a Willow) at the beginning of the central section’.6 As Huss points out, this seems extraordinary given the contrasts in mood and the very conception of the material, which is closer to that of the ensuing chamber works, including the Third String Quartet, the first version of which was completed before Enter Spring but later revised. On the other hand, largely because of the programmatic element, There is a Willow is, like Enter Spring, more sectional than the chamber works, and—especially in the Lamentoso section, which is melody-plus-accompaniment—more traditional in texture. The attempt at a public-facing style in Enter Spring failed to convince the critics,7 and, seemingly, Bridge himself, who in 1930 wrote to Alan Bush that ‘Possibly it is a cheap work. It may even be vulgar, but it just happened as it is, + as I enjoyed writing it that may be all there is to it … ’.8 Perhaps this is why he subsequently focused on an approach more likely to resonate with connoisseurs of the European avant-garde, such as Coolidge—though as Huss points out, ‘The modernist elements of Oration were contained within a framework that made sense to British commentators’.9 Neither are the chamber works monolithic in their structural approach, with the outer movements of the Third String Quartet more harmonically oriented than the movement examined below and the Trio-Rhapsody. Being at the other end of his career, Britten’s music listed in Table 1 is ‘experimental’ in a different way: he is seeking to develop a technique and a voice. To examine these works is to be aware that he could have moved in a different direction to that which eventuated, but the essential question for him seems to have been whether to follow Bridge in the direction of a more-or-less saturated chromaticism, tethered in varying degrees, which is what we see in Quartettino, or to search for a new way with diatonicism, which is explored in the first three published works, Sinfonietta, Phantasy Quartet, and A Boy was Born. Meanwhile Britten’s engagement with characteristic types mentioned above, involving a rapprochement with elements of tonality that have a minimal role in Opp. 1–3 (for example, triads and straightforward functional relationships), climaxes in the works in 1937–8, including the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. britten’s writings about bridge Britten’s first public mention of Bridge appears in an article published in the American version of the housejournal of his then publishers (Boosey & Hawkes), Tempo. Entitled ‘An English Composer Sees America’ and completed in March 1940,10 it focuses on the differences between European and American musical life, especially from the point of view of the composer. The final three paragraphs address what Britten calls ‘the very real danger of excessive nationalism’. In England he identifies ‘two reactions’ to ‘the preponderating German influence which had been stifling English music for 150 years’, separating Elgar and Bridge (who are ‘practicing musicians’) from ‘the folksong group’, which ‘held up the progress of music for twenty-five years’.11 He extended this discussion of what he calls the ‘Folk-Art Problem’ in an article published the next year in another American journal, Modern Music,12 again focusing on Bridge and Elgar. Though Britten had privately sustained a low opinion of Elgar,13 he sees him as representing the professional point of view, which emphasizes the importance of technical efficiency and welcomes any foreign influences that can be profitably assimilated. Parry and his followers, with the Royal College of Music as their center, have stressed the amateur idea and they have encouraged folk-art, its collecting and teaching. They are inclined to suspect technical brilliance of being superficial and insincere. This difference may not be unconnected with the fact that Elgar was compelled to earn his living by music, whereas Parry was not. Parry’s national idea was, in fact, the English Gentleman (who generally thinks it rather vulgar to take too much trouble). From Parry and his associates there arose a school of composers directly influenced by folksong, to which belonged virtually every composer known here [i.e. in the USA] until recently, except, of course, Elgar and Frank Bridge. This may seem surprising to many Americans who have come to regard Elgar as synonymous with England. But he is, in fact, a most eclectic composer, his most obvious influences being Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Franck.14 This is not a particularly balanced view, with more than a whiff of snobbery towards those whom Britten is himself branding as snobbish: Parry was not the rank amateur with limited horizons that Britten suggests. The chief representative of the ‘school of composers directly influenced by folksong’ was, of course, Parry’s pupil Vaughan Williams, whom Britten seems to have found so uncongenial a composer that he could not bring himself to name him.15 But of more interest is Britten’s underplaying of Bridge’s debt to Germanic models. Elgar’s and Bridge’s reactions to ‘the preponderating German influence’ is hedged by saying that they ‘realized the value of the classical tradition yet [their] utterances were characteristically English’. This means very little as there is no indication of what being ‘characteristically English’ might entail if it is not folk-based. Given the intense dislike for Brahms that Britten had developed by the date of these articles,16 and given the Brahmsian basis of the pedagogical approach of Bridge’s teacher, Charles Villiers Stanford,17 it is perhaps not surprising that he minimized the role of Germanic models. But as Anthony Payne points out, Unlike his [Bridge’s] many British contemporaries who had received a similar German-based grounding in composition, he does not seem to have questioned its premises. … This cast of thought enabled him later to assimilate elements of Bergian expressionism, and alienated him from a public more used to British composers whose modernism was tinged with Debussy, Ravel or Stravinsky.18 Payne elsewhere acknowledges the French influence on Bridge, but sees it in a leavening role, his earlier music ‘being a personal extension of the Brahms-Stanford idiom, then common coin, but lightened by a Gallic clarity gleaned possibly from Fauré’.19 Britten continued to minimize the Germanic influence in a 1947 BBC Radio Third Programme talk, ‘Frank Bridge and English Chamber Music’, which preceded a performance of Bridge works by Britten himself and the Zorian Quartet.20 He notes here that Bridge’s ‘inclination was instinctively towards the French tradition of skill, grace and good workmanship, and away from 19th-century German decadence’,21 and that he ‘rebelled at having to play and listen to music that was excused as being Philosophic because it was simply ineffective, badly written and poorly worked out’.22 An indication that this is more about Britten sorting out his own relationship with the nineteenth-century German repertory (particularly Beethoven and Brahms, about both of whom he was initially enthusiastic before casting them aside) comes in the more mature reflections of ‘Britten Looking Back’, in which he notes that one of the reasons why there began to be ‘sharp conflicts as I came to resist his [Bridge’s] influence over me’ (of which a lot more later) was that ‘his approach was largely German, 18th and 19th century at that—and by then I’d discovered Purcell and the English madrigalists’.23 He mentions Bridge’s admiration for Berg and his introducing him to Schoenberg after a concert,24 and notes that at the time he was studying with him ‘he was consolidating his later style, highly intense and chromatic, although never actually atonal’.25 There might have been an opportunity here to mention the influence of Scriabin, a little of whose music, at least, Britten had heard and possibly played,26 and whom he must have realized was a significant exemplar in the ‘modernization’ of Bridge’s harmony—more so, it could be argued, than the Second Viennese School, Stravinsky, or Bartók. But other than the occasion mentioned above, Britten seems not to have expressed any interest in Scriabin, or offered an opinion on him. Most of ‘Britten Looking Back’, Britten’s last public statement on Bridge apart from his Aldeburgh Festival programme notes on The Sea and the Trio-Rhapsody, highlights Bridge’s professionalism and his intent on instilling in his young charge ‘a sense of technical ambition’: ‘In everything he did for me, there were perhaps above all two cardinal principles. One was that you should try to find yourself and be true to what you found. The other—obviously connected with it—was his scrupulous attention to good technique, the business of saying clearly what was in one’s mind.’27 Much of the article has been retold in Britten biographies and needs only the briefest indication of content here. It tells of Britten’s initial contact with Bridge’s music in the Norwich Triennial Festival of 1924, when he ‘was knocked sideways’ by The Sea; his introduction to the man himself by his viola teacher, Audrey Alston; the ‘mammoth’ lessons involving ‘immensely serious and professional study’; Bridge ‘insist[ing] on the absolutely clear relationship of what was in my mind to what was on the paper’; the arguments about how Britten intended to begin On this Island (Britten wanted to start with a glissando, but Bridge said he was ‘trying to make a side-drum or something non-tonal out the instrument’, so he changed it: ‘I was 24 by then [actually 2328], and still listening to him’); and Bridge’s support, without success, for Britten to go to Vienna to study with Berg. Britten’s programme notes for Aldeburgh Festival performances of Bridge are typical of the genre in being limited to movement titles and brief notes on form. But they also offer brief critical contextualizations. He writes that the Phantasie Piano Quartet (1910), performed in the first Festival of 1948, ‘is written in Bridge’s early style—sonorous yet lucid, with clear, clean lines, grateful to listen to and to play’, before pre-echoing the comments of Payne quoted above: ‘It is the music of a practical musician, brought up in German orthodoxy, but who loved French romanticism and conception of sound—Brahms happily tempered with Fauré.’29 In his note for the String Sextet (1906–12), performed the next year, he emphasizes the length of time it took to complete, which, he claims, is ‘indicative of Bridge’s self-criticism. He was always determined to approach perfection as nearly as possible, even though writing a work of less than thirty minutes in length might take him six years.’30 Britten also observes that, while the work was begun in the composer’s ‘carefree romantic twenties’, the approach ‘was tempered by the austerity that began to develop in his early thirties and only came to complete fruition after the First World War in the superb and strange later chamber music and orchestral music, such as his last two quartets, his piano trio [no. 2] and in “There is a Willow”’.31 Meanwhile the Piano Quintet (1904–12), performed in 1951, ‘may lack that strong control and selection which characterizes the later Bridge works, but it is full of warm, and highly personal melodies, and is most richly scored for the five instruments’.32 The 1971 note for The Sea, on the other hand, says nothing about the music except that ‘his writing for orchestra was confident, clear and personal’: more space is taken up on Bridge’s building a house near Beachy Head from which ‘(whenever it was fine) he would enjoy going prawning before breakfast’.33 The most protracted note is for the 1955 performance of the Third String Quartet (1926). It begins with a comparison with his earlier style: ‘To those who know only this period of his work the later pieces must seem like those of another composer.’ He is perhaps overstating the case in saying that the earlier works are ‘harmonically direct’, but few will disagree with the characterization of what was to come: ‘The later works have no clear keys, are acid in harmony, the melodies have a curious conversation-like character, and the rhythms are usually irregular, and definite rhythmic patterns are rare.’34 Perhaps as part of his Bridge-rehabilitation strategy he stresses the evolutionary aspect of Bridge’s stylistic change (‘stemming from a desire to say more personal and subtler things’),35 drawing comparisons with Mozart’s more contrapuntal later style, the increasing chromaticism in Wagner, and the foretelling of Schoenberg’s atonality in ‘an impatience of tonality … in the earliest work’. He also adds the reassurance that while the later works ‘can be difficult’, ‘the moods are clear, and the drama and tensions easy to feel’.36 He gives a short description of each movement, highlighting the ‘germ theme of the whole work (a rising minor triad falling a semitone, which also gives the tonality of the piece (F sharp) … ’ and the harmony of the second movement, which ‘throughout is of a very personal Frank Bridge flavour—bittersweet’.37 Britten’s final Bridge programme note is for the 1965 Festival performance (actually the belated premiere) of the Trio-Rhapsody, composed in 1928, the year he began studying with Bridge. This was one of the first Bridge works published by Faber Music, presumably at Britten’s suggestion, in the same year as its first performance. ‘I can well remember discussions about this work, when as a boy I was working with Bridge, and a try through of it. … In my opinion the work is decidedly worth reviving: it has a strong, fantastic character, very personal themes, and wonderfully resourceful writing for the instruments.’38 By ‘fantastic character’ he presumably means not only that it is a phantasy, but also that it is ‘imaginative or fanciful’, ‘strange’, ‘whimsical’, ‘capricious’, ‘illusory’, to cite common correspondences found in thesauruses: as discussed further below, the particularity of its tangential relationship to common-practice tonality (different from that of Scriabin or the just-pre-atonal works of the Second Viennese School, and indeed Britten around 1930) is crucial in this. Britten’s private views of Bridge became known when a selection of his letters and diaries were published between 1991 and 2013,39 though all that survives of Britten’s side of the correspondence is a telegram in September 1938 wishing Bridge bon voyage as he set off for New York for the first performance of his Fourth String Quartet.40 The diaries record events such as when lessons took place and Bridge giving Britten scores of his own works, as well as Britten’s reactions to performances of his teacher’s music. They also note Britten’s direct contact with Bridge’s music: transcribing The Sea for two pianos in merely one day, 15 December 1930, for example (though he subsequently made some alterations); correcting proofs of ‘his marvellous opera “Christmas Rose” [1919–29]’ in May 1931; and transcribing There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook for viola and piano on 11 December 1932.41 And he also records his performances—or rather, rehearsals and run-throughs—of Bridge works: on 25 October 1933 he played the orchestral part of Phantasm (completed a couple of years before) on the piano in a run-through at Steinways’ studio,42 and there are numerous entries detailing rehearsals of the Cello Sonata and Second Piano Trio while at the Royal College of Music. The Second Piano Trio receives some of the most interesting comments. His diary for 22 December 1931 notes that ‘Frank Bridge sends me—for Xmas—the score (& parts) of his new Trio. I am very bucked as it is a most interesting & beautiful work.’43 He began rehearsing it with Remo Lauricella and Bernard Richards the next month; apparently they were still working on it in November that year. In between he makes brief notes on their progress: ‘It’s less Greek than before now’ (2 Feb. 1932); ‘Scherzo—terribly difficult’ (24 May); ‘Good work at Bridge Scherzo’ (9 June); ‘his marvellous trio in which he coaches us’ (24 July).44 This suggests a good deal of commitment to the work, though there is no record of an actual performance. In the 1947 broadcast talk mentioned above, ‘Frank Bridge and English Chamber Music’, Britten states that the Trio ‘reached great heights’. He goes on to wonder ‘How great those heights really are is difficult for us in 1947 to assess’, but closes his talk by saying ‘I am not sure that this Trio is not one of the finest pieces of extended musical thinking of our time’.45 A few years later, however, he raised some interesting questions about the Trio in his diary: It is a fine work—genuinely musical & really inspired I feel. Perhaps a weakness is the restriction of harmonic & melodic language, which becomes a fraction tedious. It is as if a poet set out to write; & decided to avoid using the verb ‘to be’. (This is of course 90% of the trouble of contemporary music). Even so, I feel this leaves every other bit of recent British (& most foreign[)] chamber-music standing.46 This was written in February 1936, before Britten embarked on his first published orchestral work, Our Hunting Fathers, which he later declared to be ‘my op. 1 alright’,47 and should perhaps be read in the light of his own development at that point. It was indeed a crucial stage for Britten. He was heavily involved in film and theatre work in 1935 and 1936, drawing on a range of styles as the dramatic needs dictated. His contemporary concert music was also dominated by characteristic ‘types’: in the Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6, for example, the movements are entitled March, Moto perpetuo, Lullaby, and Waltz. This inevitably involved greater reference to the tonal elements that, if not being totally cast out in Bridge’s music, were certainly being pushed further into the structural hinterland. Thus Britten’s music is eclectic and harmonically diverse when Bridge was consolidating a highly individual, stylistically more circumscribed manner. Inevitably differences of circumstance played its part in this. As noted above, when Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge became his patron, Bridge was not financially dependent on performance royalties and thus audience reaction (‘audience’ including performers, administrators, and commissioners). But as a recent graduate, Britten needed to build an audience in order to earn his living, and to justify the contract he signed with Boosey & Hawkes at the beginning of 1936. Hence the focus on characteristic types mentioned above, which provide a strong point of contact with the music of the past that a broad audience would be familiar with, as well as the development of a technique that would allow not only for the very opposite of ‘restriction of harmonic & melodic language’ but also, as witnessed in Our Hunting Fathers, a much more dramatic approach than is to be found in Bridge. compositional comparisons If Bridge’s style was apparently of little direct relevance to Britten by 1936, to what extent did it influence his music during the short time he was under his tutelage, and in the years immediately afterwards when his official teacher was John Ireland? A good starting point for such a discussion is Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody for two violins and viola, completed in March 1928 (which, as noted above, Britten remembers talking about with Bridge), and Britten’s own Rhapsody for quartet, completed after several revisions a year later on 21 March 1929. The overall form of the Trio-Rhapsody recalls Bridge’s submissions for W. W. Cobbett’s Phantasie competitions.48 The basic behaviour of a phantasie (or phantasy, or fantasy—the spellings are interchangeable) and a rhapsody are not far removed: the emphasis in both is on The Moment, hence the looseness of form and the sense of improvisation, even of capriciousness. Works in both genres are often held together (sometimes rather loosely) by a broad symmetrical design and motivic association. Christian Kennett has proposed for the Trio-Rhapsody the form scheme reproduced in Fig. 1 (his Fig. 8.1), in which lower-case letters correspond with the themes he identifies in his Fig. 8.2, not reproduced here (he actually calls the themes motives).49 Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Kennett’s form scheme for Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Kennett’s form scheme for Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody While acknowledging the precision of Kennett’s taxonomy, I’d question whether it accurately reflects the essential character of the work. The music at Fig. 36 relates more obviously to Fig. 12, for example, with the ascending minor sixth of Fig. 12+1–2 replaced by a descending major third. And the more obvious returns—the means by which listeners are likely to orient themselves among the much more fugitive correspondences—such as that of Fig. 24 ff. at Fig. 49, for instance, are not captured. Indeed, the listening experience is considerably at odds with the strong patterning such a diagram implies. Huss captures the effect better in observing the application of ‘suggestions of sonata construction to a progressive arrangement of material that is simultaneously episodic and organic, resulting in a work that seems both wide-ranging and intensely integrated’, but even this may be too certain: as Payne says, the overall impression is of ‘a private and elusive world which contrasts with the grandeur of statement in the Piano Trio and Violin Sonata’, while Peter Evans writes of an ‘elusive emotional temper’.50 The elusiveness is most obvious in the harmonic relationships, which never coalesce into an unambiguously stable tonality, as Britten noted of the late works in general.51 The opening of the Trio-Rhapsody epitomizes much of the work’s character and operational basis. Described by Payne as a ‘ghostly region’,52 it consists of three subsections, the first two of which are reproduced in Ex. 1. In the first, the opening eight bars, the G announced initially in octave harmonics is sustained as a pedal against which conflicting pitches are pitted (pizzicato), drawing freely (that is to say, with no clear pattern) on eight different members of the chromatic scale. The potential dominant quality of the G is realized at the beginning of the next subsection, from bar 9 to Fig. 1, when scurrying scalic figures beginning on C define an extended C minor area. This material is repeated, intercut with paired chords of harmonics articulating last-position dominant sevenths of F (b. 13) and C (b. 18). These chords provide the harmonic template for the ensuing pizzicato texture, with the dominant sevenths replaced by diminished triads, presumably to avoid too strong a tonal pull. In the final subsection the scurrying figures are converted into an ostinato, providing a sense of sustained continuity for the first time. The ostinato underpins a tentative essaying of a melodic line in harmonics. The pitches of the melodic line, abstracted in Ex. 2, are forged from the overlapping 034 cells that are a feature of much late Bridge and which are prominent throughout the Trio-Rhapsody, as Kennett demonstrates, identifying the cell as Forte’s set 3–3 (it is especially evident in the equivocation of major and minor thirds at Figs. 3, 26, and 54).53 The cell has already been heard within the scurrying figures (in, for instance, the first-violin F–G–A♭–A♮ of bb. 9–10); the final subsection, Fig. 2+2 to Fig. 3, is replete with 034 forms, employed to articulate repeated one-bar descents through the cycle of major thirds (i.e. the augmented triad), C–G♯–E–C, across four octaves (see Ex. 3). C’s role in this descent as start- and endpoint, plus its metrical highlighting at the beginning of each bar, further promote its referential status. Ex. 1. View largeDownload slide Frank Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: first two subsections (to Fig. 1-1). Published by Faber Music Ltd, London Ex. 1. View largeDownload slide Frank Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: first two subsections (to Fig. 1-1). Published by Faber Music Ltd, London Ex. 2. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: 034 cells in violin 1 harmonics, Fig 1+4 – Fig. 2 Ex. 2. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: 034 cells in violin 1 harmonics, Fig 1+4 – Fig. 2 Ex. 3. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: descent through the cycle of major thirds articulated by 034 cells (Fig. 2+4 ff.) Ex. 3. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: descent through the cycle of major thirds articulated by 034 cells (Fig. 2+4 ff.) As one would expect, the music moves away from the C orbit in the main part of the work: D has more of a presence from Fig. 3, for instance, while the reference for the central section from Fig. 26 is G♯, as discussed below. Towards the end of the work, however, C emerges again. The approach to the coda between Figs. 49 and 51 is underpinned by the closest approach to orthodox tonal progression in the work: in a transposed reworking of Fig. 24 onwards, the viola’s open G quasi-pedal acts as V to the C-based chord of Fig. 51. The progression is repeated during the first six bars of Fig. 52, and a C pedal is maintained through the textural dissolution to Fig. 54. At this point C, in the form of the bald viola melodic C–G, momentarily escapes from the conflicting (again, D-oriented) pitches in the upper texture of the previous bars. Any sense of outcome is fleeting, however: the C and G are on the weaker second and third beats, and an F major–minor plane is immediately introduced in the second violin in the next bar, itself opposed by the harmony of the other instruments (as at Fig. 26, which it recalls transposed). The ending represents as much of a consolidation of C-as-centre as is plausible without destroying the tenor of elusiveness. The opening material returns, and, as at the beginning, sets off with a C minor scale-fragment. The closing gestures see the emergence of wholly diatonic chords, mostly derived from segments of the circle of fifths as outlined in Ex. 4 and rooted (or at least based) on V and I. The final chord acts as if catching the resonance of the C-based chord, the harmonics linking with the sonority (and, through the viola G, the pitch) of the opening bars. Ex. 4. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: emergence of wholly diatonic chords in the final bars Ex. 4. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Trio-Rhapsody: emergence of wholly diatonic chords in the final bars The longest stretch of pure diatonicism occurs from Fig. 29, in the central slow section extending to Fig. 35, which is itself an ABA structure. In the context of constantly shifting chromatic textures, this music of contemplation appears as an evocation of a lost idyll. The folk contours, melodic decoration, rolling triplet rhythms, second-violin drone, and the parallel fourths that underpin the viola and first-violin counterpoint—all these evoke a pastoral world. The mode is Phrygian G sharp, though it is only at the cadences at Fig. 30–2 and Fig. 32–2 that this is clarified: the viola and first violin are at odds with the G♯ drone at first, revolving more around Mixolydian B. The central section reintroduces chromaticism, incorporating 034 cells in the decoration (especially the three bars before Fig. 31), though the parallel fourths in the violins (now precisely aligned) maintain the folk ambience. The A section is modified texturally on its return at Fig. 32: there is no drone, and the second violin and viola accompaniment are again at odds with the first-violin melody. The accompaniment breaks off to leave the first violin to effect the most stable cadence in the work (at Fig. 33), quickly undermined though it is: there is merely a bar and a beat of consolidation before chromatic tensions are reintroduced and the idyll—broken though it is from the start54—dissolves. The mixture of chromaticism and diatonicism is markedly the other way around in Britten’s Rhapsody, which is much shorter (seven minutes as distinct from Bridge’s seventeen) and more compact, but stylistically rather anonymous. For such a young composer the pacing is particularly well judged, if hard-won: Britten made three versions of the work before he was satisfied. Much of the success in this kind of work lies in the control of ebb and flow, and perhaps Britten’s discussion of the Trio-Rhapsody with Bridge was helpful here: the ‘wind-down’ in preparation for the second theme at bar 85 and the control of harmonic tension in general is impressive. But if it can be said that, apart from the central slow section, Bridge tends to blur formal boundaries so that the distinction between statement and transition is minimized, if not dissolved (which might be what Britten means when he writes of melodies in late Bridge having ‘a curious conversation-like character’),55 this is far from the case with Britten’s Rhapsody: like all of his published output, the work is based on clearly defined sections, even if their formal function is sometimes ambiguous. The application here of the sort of formal diagram employed by Kennett for Bridge’s Rhapsody would be closer to the listening experience, and would be much less ramified because of the greater economy of material. Reinforcing this contrast with Bridge’s approach, there is a clear, stable tonal outcome (a carefully prepared C major triad ends the work), as well as distinct articulations of E minor (the first unambiguous key to emerge, at the cadence at b. 59) and E major (the second theme) along the way. Britten’s tighter approach to rhapsody is epitomized by the importation into the formal framework of aspects of sonata form’s dynamism: the second theme (which is stereotypically lyrical and long-breathed against the more striving first-theme material) is transposed to the closing tonic, C, on its reprise at bars 204 ff. (As it happens, Britten describes Bridge’s Trio-Rhapsody as being ‘in a kind of extended sonata form’ in his programme note for the work, though this might be stretching the boundaries of formal flexibility beyond the limits that many are willing to allow.) As in Bridge’s Trio, the opening is oblique—it consists essentially of an elaboration of ii34 in D minor—but it is not especially unconventional harmonically. This same chord in a different inversion, ii56, provides the climax of the work at bars 244–5, heralding the reworked return of the opening and a coda settling into C. Strong demarcation of formal units is evident, too, in the best-known of Britten’s chamber-music juvenilia, the Quartettino, completed around nine months after his Rhapsody (in April 1930; it was published posthumously in 1983). There are some parallels with Bridge’s Third String Quartet (1926): both have three movements, the third beginning with reiterations of the work’s main motif, while Bridge’s first movement and Britten’s last both end with a vigorously asserted tonic stated in octaves (F♯ and C♯ respectively), coming again after energetic working of their main motifs. Their harmonic worlds are closer, too, the Quartettino representing Britten’s closest approach to total chromaticism. Similarities and differences between Bridge’s Third Quartet and Britten’s Quartettino can perhaps best be explored in the slow movements. To suggest that both inhabit a twilight world between tonality and atonality would be evocative, but misleading—if, indeed, such a state is possible. For in neither work is the denial of the possibility of some kind of rootedness entertained. To this extent Huss’s view that, in the Bridge, ‘much of the movement occupies a fluid harmonic sound-world, with pedal notes providing points of departure for harmonic exploration while giving the illusion of stability’56 seems precisely, if subtly, wrong: it is not so much an ‘illusion of stability’ as a desired state not quite being achieved. In Bridge’s movement, the beginning of which is reproduced as Ex. 5, the anchor-point, however tenuous, is a kind of A minor, hinted at in the fleeting V56 of Fig. 1+2 (on the last beat, sustained into the next bar) and almost emerging at Fig. 3 and in the concluding bars. The movement’s starting-point, though, is the so-called Bridge chord. First identified by Payne, this chord-type is formed by overlaying a major triad onto a minor triad whose root is a major second below; the triads are typically spatially separated.57 Here the triads are D minor and E major. The rest of the opening section, up to Fig. 3, elaborates, extends, and deconstructs the chord, and is worth examining in a little detail since it is typical of Bridge’s subtly organic mode of continuity. Ex. 5. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: opening Ex. 5. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: opening The Bridge chord first appears in slightly elaborated form: the initial first-violin figure employs a G♮ that clashes with the G♯ of the E major component. The G♮ then takes the role of the original sustained E in the next phrase and is in turn elaborated by B ♭, while the rest of the texture is made up of the original Bridge chord respaced. The cello pizzicato figure of bar 2 is extended in bar 4 to include G♯, and this abbreviated form of the Bridge chord (the fifth and third of the D minor triad, plus the third of E major) becomes the harmonic reference for the rest of section—at its original level in the first six bars of Fig. 1, and then transposed through a chain of thirds beginning in Fig. 1+7: F minor/G major, D minor/E major, B flat minor/C, G minor/A major.58 The last two links of the chain are repeated to articulate the end of the section. Meanwhile, the melodic material in the violins from Fig. 1+7 is drawn chiefly from scales associated with the underlying partial Bridge chords, with some chromaticism (for example, in the second violin part in the first two bars of Fig. 2). The scalic and near-scalic nature of the writing, plus the retention of the distinction between consonance and dissonance (at the beginning of each phrase the initial major second resolves either by the second violin moving a step down, in the manner of an appoggiatura, or by both parts moving by step to a fourth) ensure that the music remains within the hinterland of tonality. Instead of concluding, this first section wilts to a stop, the end-point of a long descent in the violins. Sectional inconclusiveness is a general tendency in the movement, and one of the ways in which its all-pervading melancholy is created. The next section, a mere four bars long, fails to conclude as well, veering away from the diatonicism of its first three bars (essentially A minor, as noted above, articulated most clearly in the bass V–i rotations, but avoiding straightforward tonic and dominant triads) to alight on a marooned C ♭ major-seventh chord before the music from Fig. 1 briefly returns. The movement’s form is fantasia-like: while it is possible to identify a number of motifs that are varied, extended, or transformed, the music is not developmental in the Austro-German sense. Various alternative ‘readings’ of the material act more as varied retakes than stages in a directed process, as in the reworking of Fig. 3 at Fig. 9, or of Fig. 1 at Fig. 10+3. Symptomatic of this approach is the arrival of the climax of the movement relatively early in the proceedings, articulated by the only (rather enigmatic) appearance of the work’s main motif at Fig. 8+5. The climax arises from an essentially local process, namely the increasing animation from Fig. 7 (particularly the intensifying floridity of the viola), but it has little consequence: as far as the rest of the movement is concerned, it might not have happened. Appropriately enough, the final bars of the movement, reproduced in Ex. 6, bring the sense of non-concluding to the greatest degree of focus as various elements from Fig. 11–6 are dismantled and drawn out. But the preceding passage, a reworking of Fig. 3+4 beginning at Fig. 13+6, also plays a part in forging the expressive mien—the melancholy of something sighted and desired but not obtained. The cello moves from V to I in A minor via a mixture of harmonic and melodic minor scales (enharmonically, E–F–F♯–G♯–A). Its A is then protracted, rising through three octaves, but the lines above conspicuously avoid coalescing into the A triad: see, for example, the alteration of the expected A to A♯ in the first violin in Fig. 14+2. Ex. 6. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: ending Ex. 6. View largeDownload slide Bridge, String Quartet No. 3, second movement: ending The second movement of Britten’s Quartettino also resists settling onto its implied tonic triad in the closing bars, but comes much closer to doing so than the Bridge. As Ex. 7 shows, the final four bars are underpinned by a semitonal descent in the bass, finishing on a D♭ above which an added-sixth chord crystallizes (though this is perhaps too strong a word), supporting the C♯ endpoint of a long melodic descent in the first violin. D♭/C♯ is also the point of focus at bars 71 ff.—where a clear V–I, A♭–D♭ is preceded by D♮ as a flattened supertonic—and at the beginning of the movement, where the first chord, V7 of D flat, invokes the V7–i progression prolonged at the end of the preceding movement (even if, as there, there are numerous notes that cannot be readily subsumed into a D flat/C sharp tonal framework).59 In general, the music is more directed than in the Bridge: there is a greater incidence of chord-types approximating dominant sevenths, and bass lines pursue stepwise movement more purposefully (as in, for example, bb. 22 ff. and 27 ff., and, as we have seen, the last four bars). Indeed, Britten’s motivic material, a chain of interlocking thirds stated as an abstract shape without clef at the head of the score (see Ex. 8), guarantees a sense of moving forward, even if it is not always clear exactly where to (in other words, where the jumping-off point will be) or to what purpose. The form, too, is much more sharply delineated: a doubling of tempo and a change in texture signals the beginning of the B section, for instance, and the section’s conclusion is marked by fragmentation and a rallentando. The overall mood is also deeply melancholic, resulting most obviously from the yearning appoggiaturas derived from the motivic third-chain, as on the downbeat of bar 2. However, if the outer sections are characterized by lassitude, as in the Bridge, the B section approaches a melancholy of mania—of ultimately purposeless activity—when the fevered motivic activity fails to find an outcome, leading to collapse and the return to the opening. Ex. 7. View largeDownload slide Quartettino, second movement: ending. Music by Benjamin Britten © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved Ex. 7. View largeDownload slide Quartettino, second movement: ending. Music by Benjamin Britten © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved Ex. 8. View largeDownload slide Quartettino: motto at the head of the score. Music by Benjamin Britten. © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved Ex. 8. View largeDownload slide Quartettino: motto at the head of the score. Music by Benjamin Britten. © 1983 by Faber Music Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publishers. All rights reserved For Peter Evans the ‘triadic components’ of Bridge’s Third String Quartet ‘are still audible, but their centripetal powers are disowned by conflicting implications, not merely concealed by a network of appoggiaturas’.60 There are conflicting implications aplenty too in Bridge’s There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook for small orchestra (1927), an evocation of, and sorrowing response to, Ophelia’s death as described by Queen Gertrude at the end of Act IV, Sc. 7 of Hamlet. The work exemplifies in miniature Payne’s astute observation that Whereas the harmony of Ireland and Bax frequently sounds like a dissonant decoration of fundamentally simple chords, Bridge’s harmony grows from the interval structure of his chords. … At the same time Bridge saw the need for a new flexibility of rhythm and form to embody his splintered tonality: moods, textures and tempos fluctuate rapidly, trains of thought are initiated by a free association, and expansive sections give the impression of continuous evolution, reinforced by Bridge’s tendency to avoid exact repetition.61 Payne goes on to observe: ‘There is a willow progresses through a chain of sections with very little repetition, finding a perfect close in the final threnody.’ This suggests a much less patterned, less sectionalized approach than Britten’s. Yet there is a degree of focus—and a sense of overlaid triadic components anchoring the texture, providing an exception to Evans’s rule—which might explain Britten’s particular fondness for the work. This fondness was expressed not so much in words as in Britten’s act of transcribing There is a Willow twice—once for viola and piano in 1932, as mentioned above, and then for reduced forces for the first Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The viola and piano transcription was made after Britten attended a choreographed performance on 4 December 1932 (he had earlier heard a live performance in the BBC’s Waterloo Studio on 31 March 1931).62 The arrangement’s success has much to do with the centrality of passages in the original in which the texture divides into tune-plus-accompaniment (the ‘snatches of old tunes’ referred to in Queen Gertrude’s speech, perhaps): see, for example, bars 17 ff.—echoed at bars 74 ff.—and bars 53 ff., as well as the Lamentoso saraband (Payne’s threnody) from bar 81. The tune of the latter was scored by Bridge for lower strings, and most of the material taken by the viola in the transcription is played at the original pitch, with movement into the higher registers—as at bars 97 ff.—further intensifying the already strained quality of the lyricism. The viola was not only Bridge’s instrument but Britten’s, too (albeit his second, after the piano), suggesting a further element of tribute. There is no evidence of them playing the transcription together, but one imagines that may have been Britten’s intention, even if only as a try-out. The Lamentoso section, the beginning of which in Britten’s transcription is reproduced as Ex. 9, is the work’s centre of gravity. The harmony is focused on one chord for the first six bars, with brief deflections, but it roams widely thereafter. No alternative reference point is set up, however, and the return to the initial chord in advance of the coda (which begins at b. 105) has a sense of resigned inevitability, sustained to the end. Partly this results from a more long-term return, to the overlaid C♯ minor and D♯ major triads of bars 14 ff., which are the enharmonic equivalent of the overlaid D♭ minor and E♭ major triads of bars 81 ff. These of course form the Bridge chord, and of all its originator’s usages, this is the one with the most defined and intense affect, embodying a profound lugubriousness. The focused intensity and essential simplicity here, reinforced by the harmony being drawn almost entirely from the Bridge chord replicated at various transpositional levels, represents the closest that Bridge came to Britten’s ideal, expressed in 1963, of ‘tear[ing] all the waste away’.63 Ex. 9. View largeDownload slide Bridge, There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, transcribed Britten: beginning of Lamentoso section. Ex. 9. View largeDownload slide Bridge, There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, transcribed Britten: beginning of Lamentoso section. Bridge’s music is sometimes referred to as bitonal. Payne, for example, remarks: ‘What made the Piano Sonata such an extraordinary achievement was the energy and determination with which Bridge withstood the pull of conventional tonal language, and developed logically a bitonal harmonic texture throughout large-scale structures.’64 It is certainly the case that textures in late Bridge are often layered, with discrete harmonic units set against each other (as at the beginning of the Piano Sonata, where a series of first-inversion triads is set against a G♯ pedal distributed across three octaves). In There is a Willow, however, the Bridge chord, which certainly could be susceptible to bitonal treatment (in other words, it could conceivably be split into constituent elements that are then set against each other) is fused into a single entity. Matters are different in Bridge’s ‘Concerto Elegiaco’ for Cello and Orchestra, Oration (1930), perhaps because the range of available timbres allows the distinction between layers to be made more effectively: for instance, the sustained chord at Fig. 3+3, in which a C major triad in the strings is set against an F♯ triad in the horns. A sense of bitonal conflict is most sustained, though, in the mismeshing between the bass and the parallel triadic movement in the upper part of the texture in the climactic Lento march from Fig. 33. Though there were other models of bitonality, or dissonant layering, available to Britten in Bridge’s oeuvre, it seems plausible that Oration was the main source for his own layering strategies, not least in his best-known tribute to his teacher. The Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10 (1937) was the second work Britten dedicated to Bridge (before that there was his first published composition, the Sinfonietta, Op. 1 (1932)): the score is headed ‘To F. B. A tribute with affection and admiration’. As Mervyn Cooke seems to have been the first to point out, in an essay on pitch symbolism,65 the work begins with a more coded tribute: the top pitches of the opening chords of F major and E major state Bridge’s initials. The theme is drawn from the second of the Three Idylls, published in 1906, specifically from the opening thirty-two bars, the A section of the ternary form, which consists of a sixteen-bar statement (Ex. 10) followed by a decorated version. As is now well known, following the publication of a note at the beginning of the composition sketch, each variation was intended to portray an aspect of Bridge’s character: [Introduction and Theme] To F.B.—himself [Adagio] His understanding His integrity [March] His energy [Romance] His charm [Aria Italiana] His wit [Bourrée Classique] His tradition [Wiener Waltzer] His enthusiasm gaiety [Moto Perpetuo] His vitality enthusiasm [Funeral March] His sympathy (understanding) [Chant] His reverence [Fugue] His skill [Finale] Our affection66 A more esoteric tribute can be found in the latter part of the Fugue (from Fig. 35), where the unison melodic line played by the quartet over the proliferating stretti quotes material from Bridge works Britten particularly admired, including Enter Spring, ‘Seascape’ (from The Sea), the first movement from the Second Piano Trio, Summer, and There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook.67 Ex. 10. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Idyll No. 2: opening 16 bars, short score Ex. 10. View largeDownload slide Bridge, Idyll No. 2: opening 16 bars, short score The speed with which Britten had to work on the commission, for the Boyd Neel orchestra, has often been noted.68 His diaries suggest he started work on 5 June: ‘Work and odd jobs—including sketching bit of F.B. Variations (for Salzburg?).’ The full score was completed by 12 July.69 Perhaps the time scale dictated his choice of this particular theme, for he had already written an incomplete set of variations on it for piano, on 6–9 March 1932.70 The Op. 10 set is completely different in its treatment, but he had obviously thought about the theme’s possibilities already, and after the aborted attempt probably possessed a sharper idea of what would work and what would not (even though the different medium obviously demanded a different approach). Britten had acquired the score of the Idylls in August 1930 (it is no. 97 in his numbered catalogue of miniature scores), and he heard them on the wireless on 16 October 1932: ‘After supper write letters, & listen to Spenser Dyke Quart. playing Beethoven F min quart. (sure a wonder of the world) & Bridge 3 Idylls (marvels in another way).’71 It is an early score: why was Britten drawn to this rather than a later, more radical work? Possibly it was the potential for extending further the motivic working, enumerated in an annotated score by Evans,72 but harmonically it seems to have offered little: as Evans notes, the ‘vocabulary of sevenths and thirteenths has too strong a period flavour to offer much to Britten’s variation procedures’,73 and while Britten had already shown an interest in tonal ambiguity, it was of a different kind from that on display here. Evans lists the succession of ambiguous tonal allusions as follows: ‘E minor (or A minor?), E flat, E minor V, E flat (or E flat minor) V, C sharp minor (or F sharp minor?), C (via B flat V7?)—E minor.’ It is indeed the case that, apart from the final tonic triad, all the chords are either sevenths or thirteenths. Resolutions tend not to be conclusive but to result in chains of flatwards-moving dissonance: thus the ii7 of bar 4 and the V13 of bar 7 (which are the first clear pointers towards a key) both slip down a semitone to create further dissonances. The cello motion to A in bar 9 might momentarily suggest the quitting of the preceding chord as a German Sixth, but the chord that forms above it is a transposition of the opening, the initiator of a sequence. All of this might suggest standard post-Wagnerian practice, but the sense of striving—of sighting and aiming for mid- or long-range goals—associated with late nineteenth-century German Romanticism is suppressed: the cadence is not a mini-triumph of arrival but a return to the pp of the opening sigh. Indeed, the flatwards movement and a preponderance of descending melodic movement (invoking the topic of lament) suggests the ambience is rather more than that of a merely ‘faintly wistful air’.74 The mood is epitomized by the opening, sighing gesture: the V13/ii in the rarely employed last position (i.e. with the thirteenth in the bass) and without the seventh (in four-part harmony the fifth of the chord would usually be omitted) resolves unconventionally, with the thirteenth leaping a tritone. Thus a sense of progression is defused, and a clear definition of a tonal centre eschewed. Britten’s preface to the theme could hardly be further from all this. It is based on Bridge’s first chord but thoroughly transforms its function and effect. In the light of Bridge’s later development, the chord could be thought of as incipiently bitonal: two layers are segregated through staggered timing, a V–i progression in A minor in the upper three instruments placed a beat behind a more ambiguous layer in the cello. It is debatable whether it is really heard in this layered fashion (V13 is the more straightforward option for the ear), but this is how Britten chooses to present it: he interprets the first chord as E major versus V of F, so that, as Evans notes, ‘the tonal friction is of Britten’s favourite semitone variety’.75 E major fanfares and rushes of E major scales are inflected by F-triad elements and underpinned by a C pedal. The resulting brilliance is such that when Bridge’s theme is faded in, the last notes of the first two of its phrases have to be extended by Britten into an extra bar to allow the fanfare’s energy to be dissipated. Generally speaking, it is the motivic material that is drawn upon for the variations. Other aspects Britten makes use of include extended semitonal movement (particularly in the bass, the voice in which it is most prominent in the theme: see especially ‘Adagio’, ‘March’, ‘Bourrée Classique’, and ‘Finale’, where there is a full chromatic descent, missing out C♯, beginning at Fig. 41) and the augmented sixth of the final cadence, which is reworked at the end of most of the variations. All of the variations except the first (‘Adagio’) and the lento e solenne section of the ‘Finale’ from Fig. 40 are character pieces, in accordance with Britten’s preoccupation at that time.76 Their moods usually contrast strongly with the theme. Those of ‘Adagio’ and ‘Finale’ (‘His integrity’ and ‘Our affection’), however, are closer. ‘Adagio’ makes particular play of the cello’s C–F♯ in the theme’s opening, alternating triads built on those pitch-classes. Much of the subsequent harmony is bound together by semitonal voice-leading: there is much less use of functional harmony than in the theme, though the latter part of the structure prolongs V–I in C.77 The effect is contemplative, but with sustained tension in the harmony: there is a greater sense of arrival or achievement (though still at a low dynamic level) at Britten’s final C major chord than in any of Bridge’s cadences. ‘Finale’ is perhaps the most heartfelt tribute to Bridge that Britten could have conceived: after donning various masks, he finally unveils his most personal music, displaying for Bridge the full extent of what his teaching has enabled. Taking the theme at its original transpositional level, he reworks the rhythm within a 4/4 framework, sometimes extending it to 3/2, with a more dynamic syncopated, accelerating chordal undertow. Of the greatest significance, however, is the reharmonization in D major (much of the harmony is chromatic, but the D major announced at the opening of the section and confirmed at the cadences is extended rather than challenged). The major mode enables a warmer sound overall than Bridge’s extended E minor, while D major happens to fit the theme better than E major. In any case D major is more resonant than E because of the open strings available to the tonic triad, especially if the open E string is added, as in the peroration from Fig. 43. In fact D major does have a role in the second Idyll: the B section starts in that key with the most assertive, outgoing gesture thus far in the piece, though the mode is immediately qualified (there is a shift to the Phrygian) and E—this time major—is restored for the third iteration of the opening gesture; the somewhat disassociated endpoint of the section is E flat. Britten’s subjugation of E is nowhere more to the fore than in the events from two bars before Fig. 43, where the pitch-classes of Bridge’s cadential approach, F♮ and D♯ (spelt enharmonically as E♭), are presented as wispy harmonics before progressing to the dissonant E♮ that resolves to D at the end of the work. The use of harmonics here is a reference to the last event of the second Idyll, the E octave in harmonics, which could not provide a greater contrast of effect. Bridge’s coda—his final fourteen bars—is the antithesis of Britten’s celebratory mode: the initial octave transposition marks the beginning of a passage of resigned fragmentation: the movement’s original cadential gesture—the German Sixth shifting with the bass movement to a dominant seventh with flattened fifth, as discussed above—is shorn of its resolution and is moved inertly and sorrowfully (the cello’s pianto descent is marked dolente) through the cycle of major thirds. The triumphalism of Britten’s D major can be interpreted as having more than purely musical significance. D had already announced itself as Britten’s favourite tonal centre, in Sinfonietta, Op. 1, A Boy was Born, Op. 3, ‘Sailing’ from Holiday Diary, Op. 5 (music that Evans sees as achieving ‘a wholly personal sonority for the first time’78), and much of Our Hunting Fathers. The back of the composition sketch for Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge contains a discarded sketch for ‘Let the florid music praise!’, the first song of On this Island, Op. 11, a work that starts and ends in D major, though ‘Let the florid … ’ itself ends in a rather more subdued G minor. Britten’s association with the key is reinforced in his next major work, the Piano Concerto, Op. 13 (1938), and then in a series of works completed in North America—the Violin Concerto, Op. 15 (though its ending is modally equivocal), Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20 (1940), Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22 (1940), and the First String Quartet, Op. 25 (1941), about which Britten wrote to Elizabeth Mayer, ‘The Quartet is in 4 movements … & in—would you believe it?—D major!!’. So perhaps as well as being a tribute, the work is simultaneously an Oedipal act, Britten’s brilliant compositional athleticism obliterating Bridge’s music in the swagger of the final bars and the certainty of the unison D.79 It so happens that there was a degree of strain between Britten and his mentor around the time the Variations were composed, as Bridge’s comments on the opening of On this Island mentioned above might suggest. Two months after the Variations were completed, one of Bridge’s ‘circle’, Marjorie Fass, wrote about the tensions that Britten’s new work (completed on 12 October 1937 and given its first performance on 19 November) had caused: As Franco got out of his car he muttered to me that never again wld he try to help Benjy over his work, as some of the things he pointed out, the boy simply wldn’t alter, so why waste his time & energy? And as I drove home with Benjy & asked if he’d had a good afternoon he said he’d had to ‘stick up for himself’ a thing he’d never done before with Mr Brit—so I said that was allright, but surely it was of value to him to have Mr Brit’s criticism & he said, ‘Yes, but they’re my songs’ & I said ‘certainly, but since Mr Brit knows so infinitely more about music than you do I shld have thought his wisdom & experience were worth your accepting’ which left spoilt young Benjy in a silent temper—& I had to have quite a light hand over everything at dinner & afterwards & didn’t touch again on his work.80 We have already noted Britten’s criticisms of Bridge’s Second Piano Trio in his diary for February 1936 (whether or not he actually voiced these to Bridge is not known). 1937 sees him continuing to distance himself. On 1 March 1937 he wrote, rather patronizingly: Grand Conversations—he is a fine thinker, but not so domineering as to prevent any observations from myself. I feel that he has a rather precious & escapist view of art—but that is typical of his generation—& eminently excusable. But his enthusiasm for music & his understanding of the classics is a tremendous virtue.81 And on 26 October, between On this Island’s completion and its first performance, he states a rare overtly negative view: Frank conducts a concert at BBC in the evening, including his Sea Suite (which pleases me enormously—although it’s not as interesting as the later stuff) & Blow out you bugles—which of course has good things in it, but even tho’ I’m so fond of him, I dislike it—partly because of the pompous sentiment of the words (Brooke), & because as music it’s not my ‘cup of tea’.82 Britten’s Piano Concerto, completed in July 1938, seems to have been received as unfavourably as On this Island, if the letter from Fass to Daphne Oliver after the first performance on 18 August accurately represents Bridge’s views too: I expect you’ll have been as disappointed in Benjy’s work as we were. … The orchestra and Wood liked the work very much—as it’s amusing to play—& every orchestral device is employed with brilliance—but of music or [illegible: ?originality] there is no trace—And if Benjy develops some day later on, he will see the insignificance of this work as it must be to all real musicians.83 A few days later (22 August) she was writing again, observing ‘we all utterly agree with the drastic criticism of The Times & Sunday Times & Observer & Telegraph’,84 the latter opining that Britten’s ‘writing is extremely facile and, if anything, too brilliant. … Mr Britten will do better things and more substantial things when his thoughts turn, as they must, to matter rather than manner.’85 The critic of The Times draws attention to the satire, which is a dangerous element in music. For one thing it sets the hearer on his guard against taking anything at its face value. For instance, is the end of the third movement, which is rather commonplace in its romanticism, meant seriously, or is the composer’s tongue still in his cheek, as it is during the first part of the movement?86 As it happens, Britten later replaced the third movement with music that can be taken at face value. His proclivity for satire emerged during his work with Auden and his colleagues in his theatre and film work, and first surfaced in his concert work in another collaboration with the poet, Our Hunting Fathers. The guying of received styles or manners is of course a central ingredient of the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, though without the political edge, however implicit, of Our Hunting Fathers or the Piano Concerto. Satire and irony were not a major part of Bridge’s make-up (we know from Britten’s diaries that Bridge disliked the arch ironist Mahler),87 though the tone of the Piano Sonata and, especially, the wry distortions of march topics in Oration can be seen as exceptions. It seems to have been the Piano Concerto that prompted this undated remark to Britten of Bridge’s: ‘I have been wishing for a long time that the art of composition would soon be a part of your subconscious self, instead of an “also ran” with poets in a political net.’88 Although the spat occasioned by On this Island concerned the first song, it is conceivable, given this comment, that it was the general tone—and in particular the facetiousness of the last song—that most irked Bridge. It would be interesting, though, to know what he thought of the critics’ attacks on his pupil’s supposed surfeit of ‘manner’, given the value he placed on technique and the amount of time he’d spent on emphasizing and developing this in him. Less than a year after the first performance of the Piano Concerto, Britten left for North America (on 29 April 1939). There is no record of him discussing his emigration with Bridge, who waved him off from the dockside,89 though one imagines that he must have done so. There had been considerable change in Britten’s life: his mother had died before he completed the Variations, on 31 January 1937, and he had met Peter Pears on 6 March, though it wasn’t until February 1938 that they moved into a flat together.90 And Auden had already replaced Bridge as Britten’s chief artistic exemplar. Bridge continued to assist Britten—in providing a letter of introduction to his patron, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, for example, whom Britten contacted on 18 September 1939 just after his arrival in New York. He writes the warmest of tributes: Our beloved Benjamin Britten, that young friend, pupil, and quasi-adopted son of whom you have heard us talk very often, and who is probably the outstanding composer of the present young men here, has been in Canada and we now hear he is going to New York. I am sure you would like him … and I do so hope a meeting materialises. I am so anxious that you should meet him through me, because he is a part of me!!91 On 3 November 1940, after hearing that Coolidge had commissioned Britten to write his First String Quartet, Bridge wrote to her: ‘I am awfully pleased to know this, and in my view, he is one of the few young composers that really count. I could enlarge upon this only too easily, but to find Benjamin Britten in the company of all the other composers who have written works for you gives me an especial delight.’92 Bridge died a little over two months later, on 20 January 1941. Britten wrote to Coolidge ten days later offering to participate in a memorial concert if she was arranging one.93 conclusion The month before Britten completed his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, its dedicatee began his Fourth String Quartet, his first substantial work since the Violin Sonata of 1932. Several commentators have remarked on the ‘classicist tendency’ of the work and of the later period in general,94 a classicism that is supported in part by more focused textures and a more explicit role for tonality. Evans observes of the Quartet: ‘The eventual arrival at a glowingly affirmative D major with added 2nd (adumbrated at the close of the first movement) is entirely convincing.’95 (In fact the final chord of the work contains an added sixth, too, so that the whole chord is a segment of the circle of fifths, though unlike previous examples in the movement—Figs 5–2, 6+3, 8, and so on—where the fifths are piled on top of each other, the spacing is constructed so as to enhance the triad.) Huss’s suggestion that the classicistic aspects ‘point towards Bridge’s admiration for Stravinsky’s more recent music, notably the Symphony of Psalms’96 is hard fully to accept (there is little in the work that seems specifically Stravinskian), though there is no doubting that he knew Symphony of Psalms. As Britten noted in his diary, they discussed it in 1934: ‘H.B. comes to dinner—have much int. talk & gramophone after—esp. Stravinsky Symphonie des Psaumes & Beethoven Mass in D—both incredible masterpieces.’97 However, Huss’s speculation that ‘the wide stylistic range of Britten’s music (not least in the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge … )’ might have ‘provided a stimulus in this last period’98 is more plausible, despite the overlap in the works’ composition: the ‘glow’ that Evans refers to is of the essence in the final variation of Britten’s tribute, and of course its key is D major. While, as Huss observes, it is ‘difficult to speculate how [Bridge’s] style might have developed had he lived to compose more’,99 it is surely unlikely, given Bridge’s disapproval of some aspects of Britten’s compositional direction at the time, that a substantial debt to Britten’s approach would have accrued: there seems no reason to substantially revise Banfield’s assertion quoted in the first paragraph that they are very different composers. If Bridge’s most characteristic utterances work chiefly through evocation, Britten’s expression is more defined (even the ambiguities are more sharply etched), the eclecticism more forthright. Nevertheless, whether Bridge intended it or not (which is unrecoverable, of course), we might regard the ending of the Fourth Quartet as a fleeting closing of the circle of one of the most fruitful master–pupil relationships in English music. Footnotes 1 Mark Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”? Frank Bridge and the Cultural Practice of Music in Britain, 1900–1941’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Oxford, 2009), 2. The phrase ‘on his own terms’ might be problematic, invoking the intentional fallacy, but Amos’s meaning is clear enough. 2 Reproduced in Paul Kildea, Britten on Music (New York, 2003), 250–3. 3 Stephen Banfield, review of Paul Hindmarsh, Frank Bridge: A Thematic Catalogue 1900–1941 and Lewis Foreman, Bax: A Composer and His Times, in Music & Letters, 66 (1985), 183–5 at 184. As Amos points out, while Britten stated that he was Bridge’s only pupil, ‘Bridge also taught composition at various stages, giving lessons to the Australian Robert Dalley-Scarlett, and later, to the American composer Bernard Rogers and the English violinist Remo Lauricella’: Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”?’, 96–7. 4 For Britten see Peter Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten (2nd edn., London, 1989), and Christopher Mark, Early Benjamin Britten: A Study of Stylistic and Technical Evolution (New York: Garland, 1995); and for Bridge Anthony Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge (London, 1976), and Fabian Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge (Woodbridge, 2015). 5 Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”?’, 216–17. 6 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 167. 7 See Amos, ‘“A Modernist in the Making”?’, 219 ff. 8 Quoted in Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 169. 9 Ibid. 159. 10 Kildea, Britten on Music, 24–7. 11 Ibid. 27. 12 Ibid. 31–5. 13 See Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 18–19. 14 Kildea, Britten on Music, 31. 15 Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 18–19. 16 Ibid. 19, 22. 17 Jeremy Dibble notes that Stanford ‘strenuously advocated Brahms as a compositional paradigm’; see Jeremy Dibble, ‘Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers’, Grove Music Online (www.oxfordmusiconline.com) (accessed 24 Apr. 2017). 18 Anthony Payne, Frank Bridge: Radical and Conservative (London, 1999), 12–13. Huss observes that ‘Brahmsian aesthetics remained an important influence on the formalist modernism of Bridge’s later music’: see The Music of Frank Bridge, 11. 19 Anthony Payne et al., ‘Bridge, Frank’, Grove Music Online (accessed 2 Oct. 2015). 20 Britten’s script is reproduced in Kildea, Britten on Music, 75–7. 21 Ibid. 75. 22 Ibid. 76. 23 Ibid. 251–2. 24 Ibid. 252. 25 Ibid. 251. 26 Britten’s diary for 30 Apr. 1930 records a ‘modern music’ evening at Britten’s parents’ home in Lowestoft at which an unnamed piece by Scriabin was played, but it is clear that he is more interested in Schoenberg’s Sechs Kleine Stücke, Op. 19, the score of which he had recently acquired. Britten’s diary-writing syntax is such that it isn’t clear who the pianist was for either work. See John Evans, Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 1928–1938 (London, 2009), 37. 27 Kildea, Britten on Music, 253. 28 The first performance was on 19 Nov. 1937, three days short of his twenty-fourth birthday. 29 Kildea, Britten on Music, 394. 30 Ibid. 396. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 395. 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. 396–7. 35 Ibid. 397. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid. 398. 39Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten, 1913–1976, i: 1923–1939, ed. Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed (London, 1991); ii: 1939–1945, ed. Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed (London, 1991); iii: 1946–51, ed. Donald Mitchell, Philip Reed, and Mervyn Cooke (London, 2004); iv: 1952–1957, ed. Philip Reed, Mervyn Cooke, and Donald Mitchell (Woodbridge, 2008); v: 1958–1965, ed. Philip Reed and Mervyn Cooke (Woodbridge, 2010); vi: 1966–1976, ed. Philip Reed and Mervyn Cooke (Woodbridge, 2012); Evans, Journeying Boy. 40Letters from a Life, i. 584. 41 Evans, Journeying Boy, 58, 72, and 125. 42 Ibid. 152. 43Letters from a Life, i. 223. (This entry is not in Journeying Boy.) 44 Evans, Journeying Boy, 98; Letters from a Life, i. 250 (not in Journeying Boy); Evans, Journeying Boy, 107; Letters from a Life, i. 267 (not in Journeying Boy). 45 Kildea, Britten on Music, 76–7. 46 Evans, Journeying Boy, 332. 47 Ibid. 428. 48 Some of these are discussed in the second chapter, ‘Background, Royal College of Music and Early Works’, of Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 44–77. 49 Christian Kennett, ‘The Harmonic Species of Frank Bridge: An Experimental Assessment of the Applicability of Pitch-Class Generic Theory to Analysis of a Corpus of Works by a Transitional Composer’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Reading, 1995), 273. 50 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 183; Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 73; Peter Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’, in Stephen Banfield (ed.), The Blackwell History of Music in Britain: The Twentieth Century (Oxford, 1995), 179–277 at 242. 51 ‘The later works have no clear keys’; programme note on the Third String Quartet in Kildea, Britten on Music, 397. 52 Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 73. 53 Kennett, ‘The Harmonic Species of Frank Bridge’, 273–4. Huss notes that ‘The level of motivic integration is unparalleled elsewhere in his output’; The Music of Frank Bridge, 182. 54 For a discussion of the broken idyll, see Reinhold Brinkmann, Late Idyll: The Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms, trans. Peter Palmer (Cambridge, Mass., 1995). (Paul Hopwood describes this section as a ‘pastoral oasis’ which contains ‘unsettling indications that something is amiss’: see Paul Hopwood, ‘Frank Bridge and the English Pastoral Tradition’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Western Australia, 2007), 263.) 55 Kildea, Britten on Music, 397. 56 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 150. 57 Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 67. 58 What Britten identified as the main motif of the work is also an abbreviated Bridge chord: thus the C–E♭–G–F♯ at the beginning of the third movement is the C minor triad and the mediant of the D major triad. 59 Mark, Early Benjamin Britten, 29–30. 60 Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’, 242. 61 Anthony Payne et al., ‘Bridge, Frank’. 62 Evans, Journeying Boy, 69. 63 Kildea, Britten on Music, 227. 64 Payne, The Music of Frank Bridge, 62. 65 Mervyn Cooke, ‘Be Flat or be Natural? Pitch Symbolism in Britten’s Operas’, in Philip Ernst Rupprecht (ed.), Rethinking Britten (New York, 2013), 102–30 at 122. 66Letters from a Life, i. 502. The manuscript is available to view on the British Library’s Digitized Manuscripts webpages, www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_60597. 67Letters from a Life, i. 503. 68 See Boyd Neel’s description of the circumstances, ibid. 501–2. 69 Its composition is traced in the diary extracts reproduced ibid. 500–1. 70 Incipits of the Theme and six variations are available in the beta version of the Britten Thematic Catalogue on the Britten–Pears Foundation website, at www.brittenproject.org/works/BTC741. 71 Evans, Journeying Boy, 118. 72 Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten, 40–1. 73 Ibid. 74 Ibid. 40; my italics. 75 Ibid. 41. 76 See, for example, the Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6 (1935), Temporal Variations for oboe and piano (1936), and the Piano Concerto, Op. 13 (1938). 77 See Mark, Early Britten, 134, Ex. 51. 78 Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten, 26. 79 This was first proposed in Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 28. 80Letters from a Life, i. 25. It is not clear to whom the letter was addressed. 81 Evans, Journeying Boy, 413. 82 Ibid. 459–60. 83Letters from a Life, i. 576–7. 84 Ibid. 577. 85 Ibid. 577–8. 86 Ibid. 579. 87 Evans, Journeying Boy, 49. 88Letters From a Life, i. 441. 89 Stephen Banfield, ‘“Too Much of Albion”? Mrs. Coolidge and her British Connections’, American Music, 4 (1986), 59–88 at 79. 90 Mark, Britten: An Extraordinary Life, 31–3. 91Letters from a Life, ii. 699. 92 Ibid. 940. 93 Ibid. 905. 94 Huss cites Hindmarsh and Payne in The Music of Frank Bridge, 200; see also Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’. 95 Evans, ‘Instrumental Music I’, 244. 96 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 200. 97 Evans, Journeying Boy, 223. 98 Huss, The Music of Frank Bridge, 204. 99 Ibid. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Music and LettersOxford University Press

Published: May 15, 2018

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