A compelling recital inspired by a celebrated instrument

Hélène Clément: Bridge, Britten

The Strad Issue: September 2022

Description; A compelling recital inspired by a celebrated instrument

Musicians: Hélène Clément (viola) Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano) Alasdair Beatson (piano)

Works: Bridge: Cello Sonata in D minor (arr. Clément); There Is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook (arr. Britten); Three Songs. Britten: Elegy; Lachrymae: Reflections on a Song of John Dowland op.46

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHAN 20247

In 2018, Hélène Clément, violist in the Doric Quartet, was lent an 1843 Francesco Giussani viola. Frank Bridge had given the viola to his former pupil Benjamin Britten as a parting gift when the younger composer headed for the US in 1939. These associations and its distinct, rather mellow sound have effectively inspired the present programme, though Clément has had to be creative in accumulating a whole disc’s worth of music by the two composers in making her own viola transcription of Bridge’s Cello Sonata. (It is strange, however, that she hasn’t included two Bridge miniatures mentioned in the booklet notes.) The sonata is the most substantial piece here and works convincingly on the higher instrument, especially as espoused in searing playing from both Clément and Alasdair Beatson, its plangency extending into Britten’s viola-and-piano arrangement of Bridge’s touching string-orchestra miniature There Is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook.

Mezzo Sarah Connolly brings acute verbal insight to a trio of Bridge’s songs including viola (à la Brahms), setting sombre poems by Arnold, Heine (in translation) and Shelley, and the melancholy continues in the tonally elusive Elegy that Britten wrote for his instrument at the age of 16 and his mature masterpiece for the instrument, Lachrymae, both captivatingly played in this excellent Potton Hall recording.