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Thread: Robert Simpson

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    Senior Member MagneticGhost's Avatar
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    Default Robert Simpson

    Robert Simpson (1921 – 1997) was an English composer and long-serving BBC producer and broadcaster.
    He wrote 11 symphonies and 15 String Quartets. In 1980, a Robert Simpson Society was established by a group of fans, quite rare for a living composer, and it is still active today promoting his works.

    From Wiki - Dedicated as he was to renewing the classical tradition of a dynamic musical architecture built on the gravitational power of tonality, Simpson wrote very few small or occasional works and concentrated on large-scale genres. He wrote 11 symphonies as well as concertos for violin, piano, flute and cello. (The Violin Concerto was subsequently withdrawn.) His extensive output of chamber music comprised 15 string quartets, 2 string quintets, a clarinet quintet, piano trio, clarinet trio, horn trio, violin sonata and a number of non-standard chamber ensemble works as well as works for piano, a sonata for 2 pianos, and a major organ work entitled Eppur si muove (after the famous remark attributed to Galileo). He tended to avoid vocal music but his output includes two motets. Variation form was important to him, and in addition to variation-movements on his own themes he composed orchestral variations on themes of Nielsen and Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as a set of piano variations on a palindromic theme by Haydn to which he returned in his large-scale String Quartet No. 9, which is a series of 32 variations and a fugue on the same Haydn theme. String Quartets Nos. 4-6 can be regarded as variations upon the compositional processes, rather than the themes, of Beethoven's three Rasumovsky Quartets, Op. 59.

    Two significant features of Simpson's oeuvre are his ability to write long works entirely based on a single basic pulse, with faster or slower tempi being suggested by smaller or larger note-values, and the establishment of a dynamic tension between competing tonalities or intervals.

    Simpson's works are consistently logical, thoroughly well thought out and organized, and are of considerable intellectual interest.
    I have just bought my first Robert Simpson CDs this week and have been getting to know the 1st Symphony. I have to say it's tremendously exciting.
    I'm not particularly eloquent when it comes to describing music so I'll leave it to Edmund>>>>

    The great English symphonist - Edmund Rubbra wrote the following of the 1st Symphony (source - CD notes - Hyperion)
    Let it be said at once that this is a most remarkable work, not only as a First Symphony but as a symphony. There is not a trace of diffidence in facing the issues of symphonic thought, indeed to write a symphony in one continuous movt lasting about 26 minutes argues an assurance that is usually arrived at late in one's composing life...The music is rugged and uncompromising but intensely logical in its thought and if there are more than occasional echoes of Nielsen in it, both in the scoring and the actual music, it is an influence that has been so absorbed and transmuted that one is aware of an attitude rather than another personality. It is this attitude that I find so compelling....The scoring is everywhere integrated with the music; by which I mean that the composer never introduces effects for their own sake. The score is first rate because the music is first-rate, and I could give no further praise
    “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    My advice, MG? Get ANYTHING YOU CAN by Simpson because if ever something happens to Hyperion or they choose not keep extant their Simpson lines then one day we might have to talk crazy money for used copies - and there's very little of his output available elsewhere unless the RSS were able to help. Perhaps they may still be available as downloads somewhere along the line but that's not quite the same, is it?

    Hyperion issued a box set for his symphonies - I thought once that they'd do the same for his chamber works.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    I am fascinated by Simpson. I have all his quartets and most of his symphonies, chamber works, and piano works. That said, I don't find myself listening to his music very much.

    Everything said about Simpson's music seems accurate -- it's serious, well-structured, and never strives for effect. But somehow it's not really compelling most of the time. Obviously a very personal and subjective reaction!


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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    I don't find much musical substance in Simpson's music to be honest. I have heard all of the symphonies multiple times and it just goes in one ear and out the other. Nothing really sticks out in my mind or is particularly noteworthy, but as Ken OC said, this is only my opinion.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    I enjoy his string quartets.
    Wish there was a box set of them.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

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    Retired TurnaboutVox's Avatar
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    I started on what I hope will be a collection of Simpson's chamber works last year (I'm a bit hearing impaired and find chamber music and solo instrumental works a bit easier to assimilate nowadays) - I have the string quartets Nos. 14 & 15 and the Quintet For Clarinet, Bass Clarinet & String Trio by the Vanbrugh Quartet, Joy Farrall (Clarinet), Fiona Cross (Bass clarinet) - all are fine, compelling works.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TurnaboutVox View Post
    I started on what I hope will be a collection of Simpson's chamber works last year (I'm a bit hearing impaired and find chamber music and solo instrumental works a bit easier to assimilate nowadays) - I have the string quartets Nos. 14 & 15 and the Quintet For Clarinet, Bass Clarinet & String Trio by the Vanbrugh Quartet, Joy Farrall (Clarinet), Fiona Cross (Bass clarinet) - all are fine, compelling works.
    That's a nice way to open your Simpson account and I hope they continue to give you as much pleasure as they have given me.

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    Senior Member Avey's Avatar
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    OK. So, in the library, I walk into an aisle -- "Ru - Som" -- and I peruse, meander, and behold, some Naxos CDs catch my eye, and the name, oh, interesting, that says SIMPSON. An american composer, it appears from the cover.

    Several albums, indecisiveness, I move on. But I visit again tomorrow...

    What do I opt to check out?

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Believe Simpson was British, a producer for the BBC.


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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avey View Post
    OK. So, in the library, I walk into an aisle -- "Ru - Som" -- and I peruse, meander, and behold, some Naxos CDs catch my eye, and the name, oh, interesting, that says SIMPSON. An american composer, it appears from the cover.

    Several albums, indecisiveness, I move on. But I visit again tomorrow...

    What do I opt to check out?
    This is a fairly good place to start, I think:

    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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