Variations on an Original Theme Opus 36 (9) Edward Elgar Download 'Variations on an Original Theme Opus 36 (9)' on iTunes
Pianist Ashley Wass, along with The Tippett Quartet unlock the passion and power in Bax and Bridge's Piano Quintet
Composer: Bax, Bridge
Repertoire: Piano Quintets
Artists: Ashley Wass (pf), The Tippett Quartet
Label: Naxos 8.572474
The Music A pair of works for piano and string quartet by two highly-regarded British composers of the early 20th century. Bax’s forty-minute long Piano Quintet (1915) occupies symphonic dimensions, and is dark and broody – the sound of surprise. Bridge’s Quintet (1905) is more obviously Edwardian and stately, but powerful full-bodied Finale though.
The Performance Confounding the popular view of him as fey rural pastoralist, Bax’s Piano Quintet is wonderfully off-the-leash and extreme; Wass and The Tippett Quartet keep the tempestuous, jaggedly chromatic melody lines of the first movement dangling on a precipice: and what to make of the percussive pizzicato thwacks that open the second movement? The Tippetts choose not to compromise their physical impact, nor Bax’s obsessive-compulsive, hard-driven finale. The Bridge is more of a wallow; great if you like that kind of thing, especially given Ashley Wass and the Tippetts’ regal, red-blooded tone.
The Verdict I can’t imagine the Bax receiving a more passionate, devoted performance and this disc has made me rethink my view of his music. An equally impressive account of the Bridge; not as consciously ‘pretty’ as Piers Lane’s Hyperion performance (CDA 67726).
Want More? Bridge’s tone poems The Sea, Enter Spring and Summer are gnarly, adventurous orchestral works: I like the forthright, exploratory performances from the New Zealand SO and James Judd (Naxos 8.557167).