British composer and pacifist Frank Bridge was born in Brighton, England, on February 26, 1879. Bridge began his musical education at the age of six, with his father as his first violin teacher. In his early teens, he took an active role in his father’s theatre orchestra as both violinist and arranger. His formal education was taken at the Royal College of Music where he studied violin and composition, graduating in 1904. After graduation, Bridge was awarded the Foundation Scholarship, which allowed him the luxury of studying composition for four years with influential teacher and conductor Charles Villiers Stanford. His reputation as a gifted violinist and conductor led to membership in the Joachim Quartet and English String Quartet. He conducted operas at Covent Garden and served as assistant to Sir Thomas Beecham when he organized the New Symphony Orchestra.
World War I marked the most difficult period in Bridge’s life. His distress was heard in his music, most poignantly in The Piano Sonata, written in memory of composer Ernest Farrar, who was killed in action in France.
In 1922, Bridge met American music patron, Elizabeth Coolidge, with whom he and his wife enjoyed a lifelong friendship. Her generous trust fund allowed Bridge to concentrate on composition and teaching for the rest of his life. His best-known pupil was child prodigy Benjamin Britten, whom he began teaching when Britten was eleven. Britten credited Bridge with teaching him the discipline necessary for good composition, and in 1937 paid him tribute in his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. For many years, Bridge was known more for that piece than for his own music.
Following Britten’s immigration the United States in 1939, his mentor turned back to composition, completing only the Rebus Overture before his death on January 10, 1941, with his country facing yet another war. He is buried at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Friston, East Sussex, England.