Bridge - Rosemary
Frank Bridge (1879 - 1941) may, for many, be a little known British composer. However, he was a composer of considerable skill and quality and is best remembered for his chamber music.
He studied with Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music and also gained a reputation as a conductor, at times deputizing for Henry Wood.
He may well be best remembered for his connections with Benjamin Britten who studied composition with him and who had enormous respect for Bridge as a composer. So much so that Britten later paid homage to him by writing 'Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge' (1937), a work for string orchestra which has become a major piece in the string orchestra repertoire.
'Rosemary' comes from a set of 'Three sketches for Piano' and is one of Bridge's best known piano pieces.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This piece has an appeal to all those who like playing expressive romantic style pieces. It has many lovely harmonies and changes of key and lies easily enough under the hands.
The middle section poses challenges, in terms of hands getting around notes (See Teaching Strategies & Fingering). Smaller hands may have to spread more of the chords, but is a technical rather than a musical problem in this piece.
Pedalling and balance of tone is a big consideration, especially in the middle section.
Pupils who are afraid to show their emotions may not find this piece that easy.
Style & Tempo
The mood here is unmistakeably romantic.
Note the markings ‘espressivo e molto rubato.’ As the English saying goes this is a piece where you need “to wear your heart on your sleeve !” In other words, be as expressive and outward going as you like.
For some reason the metronome indication in the published edition relates to quavers, whereas it is best conceived as a lilting two in a bar rather than a 4/8.
Phrasing & Articulation
The musical sections are fairly obviously defined and should be phrased according to cadences points (e.g. bars 1 -8/9 – 14 etc)
Follow the markings in the score as these are detailed.
The main type of touch used here is a singing legato with more pointed and projected accentuated tone in the middle section.
Tone & Texture
This piece needs a large range of tone and an imaginative palette of pianistic colours.
There are three main tonal qualities and dynamic ranges:
(i) The singing RH melodic lines
(ii) The inner accompanimental parts and bass lines
(iii) The climactic chords of the middle section
The benefits of silent practice are discussed here!
The main aspects of technique demanded of the player here are:
(i) manipulation of tone control
(ii) hand crossing with careful pedalling
Tone control is discussed in the various other sections.
The action of hand crossing can be practised silently first. This enables the student to get used to finding the chords and getting the action itself comfortable and accurately placed.
This can then progress to addition of pedalling at the same time as hand crossing, but again silently. This helps to focus on those actions alone without the added burden of the sound.
When adding the notes themselves, be sure to slow down the tempo.
LH Bars 1 – 5 best to use 5th finger on all LH lower notes. This helps uniformity and learning of chord patterns.
Bars 1 – 15
This is straightforward, in that legato pedalling is best in crotchet pedals. Make certain that it is not snatched, but clear (e.g. up on the beat and then down).
It is a good idea to practice LH and pedal, since this combination is one the hardest and most important to properly coordinate.
Work on essential musical qualities alongside technical ones. When learning the LH in the opening 8 bars, for example, phrase it musically right from the outset.
Building up pattern recognition is a vital skill. Therefore think carefully about how the LH is taught (bars 1 – 8 etc) so that your student can readily recognize the difference between 1st & 2nd inversion chords. Remembering those patterns and the change from 1st to 2nd inversion will help to speed up the learning process.
There are lots of different sections and changes of tempo. Therefore practise going into and getting out of each particular section, slowly at first. When the tempo is getting close to the performance tempo be certain to practise into and out of sections up to tempo.
Professional musicians always ‘top and tail’ when rehearsing before a concert. This means starting main sections, practising into and out of sections, and generally trying to recall, with accuracy, the mood, tempo and specific characteristics of the piece. This kind of practice, crucial as it is, should take place only when the piece has been properly learnt.
The middle section is most likely to cause difficulties. Tackle this by breaking things down into very small, manageable bits.
Do not rely on looking up at the notation and then back to the keyboard, but be prepared to memorize where the hands go.
There is a lot of musical refinement and persuasion in this professional recording. An excellent performance will emulate these kinds of qualities. The range of tone and colour will be wide and there will be a sense of poetry and emotional communication.
A good performance will have a keen range of tone colour and dynamics and will show lots of expressive sensitivity and feel for the harmonic movement. The musical proportions will be well structured.
A sound performance will have a range of dynamics and an expressive approach. However it may be limited in the extent of its detail and musical grasp or may be a performance which, whilst expressive, lacks the real commitment and style for it to be convincing.