Friday April 27 2018

A short series of concerts starts today exploring the connection between Britten and his first composition teacher, Frank Bridge (Britten began lessons with him aged only 14, and they continued for nearly 3 years). Chamber and vocal music by both composers will be performed over the course of the three recitals, including Britten’s String Quartet no. 1 and Lachrymae, and Bridge’s Piano Quintet and works for piano trio. The first recital features songs by both composers: Bridge’s remarkable settings of the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore and his three songs for voice, viola and piano; and some of Britten’s beautiful ‘Moore’s Irish Melodies’. Britten’s Elegy for solo viola will also be performed, a piece he composed aged only 16 while he was still studying with Frank Bridge.

A particularly special aspect to these concerts is that the viola player in each – Josh Hayward – will be performing on Bridge’s own viola, which belongs to the Britten-Pears Foundation. Bridge presented this viola to Britten as the younger composer departed to America in 1939 with the accompanying message

So that a bit of us accompanies you on your adventure. We are all “revelations” as you know. Just go on expanding. Ever your affection & devoted Ethel & Frank. Bon voyage et bon retour.

Sadly, the two men were not to meet again as Bridge died in 1941 while Britten was still in America. But the ‘bit of us’ that accompanied Britten on this journey remains with us today: Josh talks about the instrument and how it embodies the connection between Britten and Bridge in this short film.