Author Topic: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)  (Read 31864 times)

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Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #40 on: July 19, 2010, 01:10:08 AM »
Dundonnell

I wrestle with the question of how much Brian we can hear in Simpson...if any.

Simpson's music is indeed basically boring.

That's purely a matter of taste, I would say.  The string quartets, in particular, display a technical prowess and rhetorical rigour that many find compelling.  It is not facile or instantly-accessible music like Einaudi, but that doesn't mean it can be written-off. 
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #41 on: August 04, 2010, 11:31:13 AM »
I 'warm' more to the music of, say, Edmund Rubbra than I do to Simpson.

Edmund Rubbra and Robert Simpson are two very different composers. Simpson, in my opinion, was coming from a more Germanic/Austrian and Scandanavian influenced sound-world than an "English idiom" so to speak. Also the two composers obviously had two very different lives. I think Simpson truly wanted to say something different in his music and strove, sometimes to agonizing lengths, to get these thoughts on paper.

Whether Simpson will be remembered 20 or 30 years from now is hard to say, but I think his music deserves to be heard as he was daring enough to still work in a tonal idiom and it's this kind of persistence that I really admire about him.
 
I just bought his box of symphonies on Hyperion, because I felt that the man truly deserves a thorough listen and I'm sure there's going to be a lot music that I'm not going to care for, but hopefully Simpson will surprise me. But Rubbra, Simpson, Arnold, Alwyn, Tippett, Britten, among others were doing something very different in British music during their lives, which is always refreshing.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2010, 09:00:54 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #42 on: August 05, 2010, 01:44:16 AM »
Edmund Rubbra and Robert Simpson are two very different composers. Simpson, in my opinion, was coming from a more Germanic/Austrian and Scandanavian influenced sound-world than an "English idiom" so to speak.

I like both these composers, and I find the similarities between them are superficial - sort of like those between Bruckner and Mahler (both wrote big post-Wagnerian symphonies; both mostly ignored other established forms; both were influenced by... etc etc).

Simpson named his influences as Beethoven, Haydn, Nielsen, Bruckner and Sibelius among others, and it certainly comes through in the music. Rubbra is much more English - he looked back to Tudor-era composers like Byrd and Gibbons for inspiration; you can hear that too.
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Offline Lethevich

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #43 on: August 05, 2010, 03:35:14 AM »
Simpson named his influences as Beethoven, Haydn, Nielsen, Bruckner and Sibelius among others, and it certainly comes through in the music.
(On a tangent, sorry, but your post made me consider something I had not before) I think that this may be one of the key reasons why Simpson is so uniquely controversial with what is a pretty tame style in terms of "progressiveness". When people read his influences as including these immortal tunesmiths, his music must then come as a jarring surprise to some. The influences do run very deep though, but are all about development and structure rather than a simple cribbing of their melodies.
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #44 on: August 05, 2010, 04:05:58 AM »
When people read his influences as including these immortal tunesmiths, his music must then come as a jarring surprise to some. The influences do run very deep though, but are all about development and structure rather than a simple cribbing of their melodies.

Yes indeed. Some listeners expect to hear long winding solemn melodies a la Bruckner, and instead they get rigorous and sometimes harsh motivic development. I've read some expressions of disappointment over this; but mere attempts to imitate would be IMHO a greater disappointment.
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Offline jowcol

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #45 on: August 05, 2010, 04:29:02 AM »

Edmund Rubbra and Robert Simpson are two very different composers. Simpson, in my opinion, was coming from a more Germanic/Austrian and Scandanavian influenced sound-world than an "English idiom" so to speak. Also the two composers obviously had two very different lives. I think Simpson truly wanted to say something different in his music and strove, sometimes to agonizing lengths, to get these thoughts on paper.

Whether Simpson will be remembered 20 or 30 years from now is hard to say, but I think his music deserves to be heard as he was daring enough to still work in a tonal idiom and it's this kind of persistence that I really admire about him.
 
I just bought his box of symphonies on Hyperion, because I felt that the man truly deserves a thorough listen and I'm sure there's going to be a lot music that I'm not going to care for, but hopefully Simpson will surprise me. But Rubbra, Simpson, Arnold, Alwyn, Tippett, Britten, among others were doing something very different in British music during their lives, which is always refreshing.

If you haven't heard his 9th yet, I'd start there.  I like some of the others, but 9 is really great.

Although Rubbra's music also has a strong basis, it was typically based on counterpoint, which naturally had more emphasis on the melodic line.   Simpson reminds me more of conjuring the elemental power of a Beethoven, but with more of a cerebral bent.

There's room for both on my shelf .

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #46 on: August 05, 2010, 06:45:40 PM »
There's room for both on my shelf.

Absolutely, which why both are on my shelves. :D But seriously, I can't wait to start listening to Simpson's symphonies.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #47 on: August 05, 2010, 06:47:30 PM »
Yes indeed. Some listeners expect to hear long winding solemn melodies a la Bruckner, and instead they get rigorous and sometimes harsh motivic development. I've read some expressions of disappointment over this; but mere attempts to imitate would be IMHO a greater disappointment.

I never expected Simpson to sound like Bruckner or any of the composers he admired. After all, influences are exactly what they are: influences. Simpson was a man of a very different time and people should be aware of this as they attempt his music.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 10:26:29 AM by Mirror Image »
"Music should be able to invoke the natural emotions in all human beings. Music is not notes fixed on apiece of paper.” - Toru Takemitsu

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #48 on: November 02, 2010, 02:14:12 AM »
I just acquired and had my first listen to Simpson's arrangement of The Art of Fugue, played by the Delme Quartet:



Simpson does some interesting things here, like transposing from D minor to G minor; he says that the original key does not properly fit a string 4tet's range. (Is this really true, I wonder...surely there are some string quartets in D minor?)

Anyway, I like this arrangement and performance a lot. I've found The Art to be somewhat exhausting to listen to at times, but it suits the quartet genre nicely, with a natural-sounding ebb and flow of the musical ideas. (A bit ironic, considering that the whole string quartet genre postdates Bach.)
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DavidW

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #49 on: November 03, 2010, 11:49:22 AM »
Man I love Simpson!  You reminded of how great that symphony is.  I wish that hyperion would jump on the streaming band wagon... it will be awhile before I get around to ripping the cds I have.

Scarpia

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #50 on: November 03, 2010, 11:56:25 AM »
Simpson does some interesting things here, like transposing from D minor to G minor; he says that the original key does not properly fit a string 4tet's range. (Is this really true, I wonder...surely there are some string quartets in D minor?)

It has nothing to do with d minor not being a good key for string quartets.  It is a matter of transcribing it so that the range of note values that Bach actually uses in his AOTF matches the range of the string quartet.

Offline Brian

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #51 on: November 04, 2010, 03:31:52 PM »
Hyperion's "Someone Buy Me" sale has Simpson's First and Fourth String Quartets, and I can't help notice that despite his reputation for spikiness and coldness or lack of emotion, the samples make these out to sound like appealing, even genial works. Well, not genial. But appealing.

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #52 on: November 04, 2010, 03:42:37 PM »
Hyperion's "Someone Buy Me" sale has Simpson's First and Fourth String Quartets, and I can't help notice that despite his reputation for spikiness and coldness or lack of emotion, the samples make these out to sound like appealing, even genial works. Well, not genial. But appealing.

I had another release from the series, which included a work for clarinet, base clarinet and string trio.   I would say it is the only recording I have ever heard employing bass clarinet that I could not listen to.  I also had the Symphony No 9 on a Hyperion disc at one point.  I honestly do not know what would possess anyone to use any of their precious time on earth listening to Simpson.   :P

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #53 on: November 05, 2010, 12:47:07 AM »
Hyperion's "Someone Buy Me" sale has Simpson's First and Fourth String Quartets,

I don't have that one, but I do have the one with quartets 3 and 6. I like 'em both, esp. the 6th. The quartets 4-6 are deliberately patterned on Beethoven's Razumovsky quartets, and as such form a kind of "commentary" on them, which makes for an interesting experience. On the other hand, I had the disc with quartets 10 and 11 and didn't much like it. I think Simpson is better when he has the resources of a large orchestra to play with.
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DavidW

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #54 on: November 05, 2010, 05:56:17 AM »
I think Simpson is better when he has the resources of a large orchestra to play with.

+1 his chamber is good but the symphonies are in a whole other league.

Offline drogulus

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #55 on: November 07, 2010, 12:10:06 PM »
     He deserves to be heard if he brings a large orchestra. I just listened to the 3rd Symphony and I almost wish I could come to a different conclusion. There so much that's good about it. Everything, you might say, but the inspiration that makes one listen again. I'll listen again, because I do that. If dutiful listening doesn't work (it does on occasion) I'll have to try no listening. I'm not giving up yet, though.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #56 on: November 07, 2010, 02:03:59 PM »
     He deserves to be heard if he brings a large orchestra. I just listened to the 3rd Symphony and I almost wish I could come to a different conclusion. There so much that's good about it. Everything, you might say, but the inspiration that makes one listen again. I'll listen again, because I do that. If dutiful listening doesn't work (it does on occasion) I'll have to try no listening. I'm not giving up yet, though.

Largely agree - although I do like Symphony No 3. No 1 is my favourite - the others I struggle with - at my least sympathetic I think that much of his music sounds like Nielsen without the tunes, but this is, no doubt, unfair as others think he's a great symphonist.
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #57 on: November 08, 2010, 12:38:17 AM »
much of his music sounds like Nielsen without the tunes, but this is, no doubt, unfair

You can actually find memorable tunes in some Simpson works: like the finale of the 2nd Symphony (really jolly and Hindemith-like), or the long winding melody in the slow mvt. of the "3rd Razumovsky" quartet (#6), or parts of the Nielsen Variations (though credit for that last one goes also to Nielsen). Sure, Simpson's not a tunesmith, but he's not totally incompetent in that area either. If you like Schuman (another structural, un-melodic symphonist), it's kind of surprising that you don't like Simpson too.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #58 on: November 08, 2010, 02:25:04 PM »
You can actually find memorable tunes in some Simpson works: like the finale of the 2nd Symphony (really jolly and Hindemith-like), or the long winding melody in the slow mvt. of the "3rd Razumovsky" quartet (#6), or parts of the Nielsen Variations (though credit for that last one goes also to Nielsen). Sure, Simpson's not a tunesmith, but he's not totally incompetent in that area either. If you like Schuman (another structural, un-melodic symphonist), it's kind of surprising that you don't like Simpson too.

I'm sure you're right and I must listen to Symphony 2 which I've read good things about.  There's a kind of dark lyricism about some of William Schuman's symphonies (No 6 for example) which appeals to me more than Simpson - although Horenstein's recording of Simpson's Third Symphony is a favourite.
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #59 on: November 11, 2010, 05:39:27 AM »
I found this interesting, detailed interview with Simpson.

http://www.bruceduffie.com/simpson.html

Here are a couple of quotes which sum him up nicely as a composer:

"Well, I'm not interested in vogue. I think 'vogue' has ruined composers. Composers have often been in vogue and then faded out. What's in fashion is not important. What is in the substance of the music is what is important. That is what I would try to preserve or try to achieve. And, well, if people want it, that's nice. If they don't, at least I've done my best."

"I can't tell you this bar means this or that, this movement means this or that. I can only try to write the kind of music that seems to me constructive and vital. It has positive energies in it."

He also states that he composes using Carl Nielsen's pencil, given to him by Nielsen's daughter.
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