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Robert Simpson (1921-97)

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Simpson, R: Symphony No. 9

Simpson, R: Symphony No. 9


“If you know that feeling of expectancy, of vast potential energy, at the outset of a great symphony, you'll surely respond to the opening of Simpson's Ninth – and be wholly engrossed. You'll be led through shifting pedal-points and wedge-shaped themes encompassing a specific harmonic universe; through waves of energy pulsating fit to burst, until burst they do into a titanic scherzo; through slow, disembodied traceries of string lines, through awe-inspiring climaxes to a no less aweinspiring hushed coda. And as rising scales pass through the coda's pedal-points into the final glacial sonority you'll know that you've heard one of the finest symphonies of the post-war era.
The composer adds an explanatory 18-minute talk. Here are laid bare some of the salient constructional features of the work – the opening's basis in chorale prelude procedures (a fairly cosmic rethinking thereof!), the single underlying pulse of the entire work (a recurrent feature in Simpson's output, but never before applied on this scale), the palindromic variations in the second half, the debts to Bach, Beethoven and Bruckner. To which one might add that the rigorous processes described in this talk suggest a somewhat unlikely kinship with Bartók at his most abstract (as in the first movement of the Music for strings, percussion and celesta).
Bartók, it's safe to say, has as little to do with this work's symphonic instincts as any other 'big name' of the last 50 years or so. Simpson stands not at any fixed pole of today's music, but rather at a kind of magnetic north, free from attempts of musical cartographers to pin down his position, spiritually allied to composers of any age and style who have penetrated to the essence of music's motion in time. A totally absorbing symphony and the performance and recording are surely the best possible tribute to all concerned.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

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Hyperion - CDA66299

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Robert Simpson: Complete Choral and Organ Music

Robert Simpson: Complete Choral and Organ Music


Simpson, R:

Canzona for brass

In media morte vita sumus

Tempi

Eppur si muove for organ


Ian Quinn (organ of Westminster Cathedral )

Corydon Simgers, Corydon Brass Ensemble

“Simpson would never have claimed that choral music was his métier. Yet for lovers of his music there's something especially revealing about the two pieces recorded here. In Media morte in vitasumus ('In the midst of death we are in life') he deliberately reverses the scriptural motto in order to articulate his personal 'anti-pessimist' creed.
The musical setting for chorus, brass and timpani is appropriately austere, and Simpson's words are translated into Latin for the sake of universality.
Tempi for a cappella chorus is a jeu d'esprit, the text consisting entirely of Italian tempo and character markings. The Corydon Singers offers superbly confident performances, as does the Corydon Brass Ensemble which also shines in the comparatively well-known Canzona.
It's impossible to avoid comparisons with Nielsen when it comes to the 31-minute Eppur si muove ('But it does move') for organ. This 12-minute ricercare followed by a 19-minute passacaglia sets its jaw squarely against conventional organ-loft grandiosity. Its intellectual monumentality is clearly in the Commotio mould, though it's considerably tougher going than Nielsen's late masterpiece. Iain Quinn joins the long line of dedicated performers who have made Hyperion's Simpson series such a consistent triumph. Recording quality leaves nothing to be desired.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Robert Simpson: Horn Music

Robert Simpson: Horn Music


Simpson, R:

Trio for Horn, Violin & Piano

Quartet for Horn, Violin, Cello & Piano


Richard Watkins (horn), Pauline Lowbury (violin), Christopher Green-Armytage (piano), Caroline Dearnley (cello)

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Robert Simpson: String Quartets 1 & 4

Robert Simpson: String Quartets 1 & 4


Simpson, R:

String Quartet No. 1

String Quartet No. 4


The Delme String Quartet

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Robert Simpson: String Quartets 2 & 5

Robert Simpson: String Quartets 2 & 5


Simpson, R:

String Quartet No. 2

String Quartet No. 5


The Delme String Quartet

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Robert Simpson: String Quartets 7 & 8

Robert Simpson: String Quartets 7 & 8


Simpson, R:

String Quartet No. 7

String Quartet No. 8


“Quiet music with a sense of purpose and forward- looking destiny; slow music which bears the promise of a controlled release of energy, these are rare and treasurable qualities in music of our time, and they make their presence felt at the beginnings of Simpson's Seventh and Eighth Quartets. How he progresses through subdued scherzo to vehement climax is something to reflect on at length, and with further acquaintance comes the Beethovenian thrill of hearing the music think. But at first these things just steal up on you and take the breath away.
The Seventh Quartet is dedicated to Susi Jeans, widow of astronomer and mathematidan Sir James Jeans, the Eighth is dedicated to entomologist David Gillett and his wife. Both works draw on the kind of motion suggested by those areas of sdentific enquiry. On the other hand the Ninth calls up what would seem to be the bitterest enemy of forward movement – the palindrome; 32 variations and a fugue, in fact, on the minuet from Haydn's Symphony No 47 and all of them, like the original theme, palindromic. If Simpson's powers of invention falter at any stage in this hour-long tour de force you would be hard pushed to discover where. But then this music so completely absorbing that the necessary critical detachment is difficult to achieve. The only reservation that did register was over recording quality, which for the Ninth Quartet is disappointingly boxy – sensuous appeal isn't what this music is about, but a more ingratiating acoustic wouldn't do it any harm – and to hear the Seventh without the distraction, however faint, of traffic noise would be preferable.
The Delme Quartet's performances are outstandingly dedicated. The Ninth Quartet was composed for their 20th anniversary and they prove themselves entirely worthy of the honour.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Simpson - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8

Simpson - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8


Simpson, R:

Symphony No. 1

Symphony No. 8


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Simpson - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4

Simpson - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4


Simpson, R:

Symphony No. 2

Symphony No. 4


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Simpson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5

Simpson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5


Simpson, R:

Symphony No. 3

Symphony No. 5


'One of the great symphonies of the post-war era, magnificently realised by all concerned. This issue is surely destined to be a jewel in Hyperion's already starry Simpson crown' (Gramophone)

“The Third Symphony is Simpson's best-known work and Vernon Handley play the symphony like the repertoire piece it deserves to be, and Hyperion's recording reveals a wealth of unsuspected detail and beauty. The Beethovenian impulse still comes across, and the abrasive edge is only slightly softened. But what has been gained is clarity, blend and perspective, plus a sense of dialogue (Simpson's polyphony never ceases to amaze) and an altogether subtler realisation of the luminosity of Simpson's scoring.
The long accumulating second movement is absorbingly poetic, witty in its dialogue, and inevitable in its conclusion.
The Fifth Symphony is surely one of Simpson's most vivid pieces. Moods of terror, anger, anxious probing and fierce determination are right on the surface, and there's a feeling of terrific will-power being exerted to transmute those moods into a symphonic experience. This is one of the great symphonies of the post-war era, magnificently realised by all concerned.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Hyperion - CDA66728

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Simpson: Symphony No. 11 & Variations on a theme by Carl Nielsen

Simpson: Symphony No. 11 & Variations on a theme by Carl Nielsen


Simpson, R:

Symphony No. 11

Variations on a theme by Carl Nielsen


City of London Sinfonia, Matthew Taylor

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