Thursday, 21 February 2013

‘Unflagging energy and a lack of tenderness...’

The Chester Musical Festival of 1891 saw the premiere of a specially commissioned work composed by one Dr JC Bridge, organist at Chester Cathedral and conductor of the Festival.

The dramatic cantata, Rudel, with a libretto by Mr FE Weatherley, was performed in the city’s music hall on Wednesday 22 July. A review in The Times the following Monday commented:

The chief characteristic of Mr Bridge’s music is unflagging energy, its principal defect a lack of tenderness in what may be styled the sentimental portions.

Bit of a drawback for a tale roughly 97% sentiment, but entirely in keeping with the image of 19th-century British classical music.

A ‘revels’ scene apparently used old English folk tunes including ‘Cheshire rounds’, ‘Carman’s whistle’, and the granddaddy of them all, ‘Summer is icumen in’, and did so with impunity, indicating that in 1891 there weren’t yet any purists to get hot under the collar about travestying the Provencal essence of the story.
We note that the role of a love rival, Sir Guy, was sung by a baritone with the splendid name of Bantock Pierpoint.