Frank Bridge

English composer and violist

Frank Bridge (born Brighton, 26 February 1879; died Eastbourne, 10 January 1941) was an English composer, violist and conductor. His music often sounded quite modern to the people of his day. He wrote many excellent works including chamber music as well as orchestral music. One of his composition pupils was Benjamin Britten. Later Britten remembered his teacher by using one of Bridge’s tunes and making them into a piece of music called Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge.


Bridge was born in Brighton and studied at the Royal College of Music in London from 1899 to 1903. One of his teachers was Charles Villiers Stanford. He played the viola in several string quartets and conducted many orchestras. He learned difficult music very quickly, and sometimes Henry Wood asked him to take his place when he was not well enough to conduct himself. After a while he spent most of his time composing. He privately taught several pupils, including Benjamin Britten, who later helped to make his teacher's music better known and honoured him in his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge for string orchestra (1937), based on a theme from the second of Bridge's Three Idylls for String Quartet (1906).

Bridge died in Eastbourne.


Bridge’s early works show the influence of Johannes Brahms and Charles Villiers Stanford. He wrote some excellent chamber music and songs. The Phantasie Quartet and the String Quartet no 1 show his talent. His later pieces such as the third (1926) and fourth (1937) string quartets have quite complicated harmonies and show his interest in the music of Schoenberg as well as the harmonies of Maurice Ravel and Alexander Scriabin. His most important orchestral works include The Sea and Summer. He wrote some lovely chamber music for the cello as well as many songs. In his later years his harmonies become quite advanced, for example a favourite chord of his can be found by playing a C minor chord and a D major chord together. In his longer pieces the speed of the music often changes and he avoids repeating himself exactly.

For a long time after his death his music was hardly ever played, but more recently musicians have discovered the greatness of his compositions. Pianists like to play the popular piano piece called Rosemary.