Author Topic: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)  (Read 43076 times)

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Offline amw

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #380 on: August 08, 2018, 05:38:00 AM »
My experience is it's very easy to overdose on Simpson but, say, a symphony or string quartet a week or so is quite satisfying. This week I listened to Symphony No.8, which is basically Nielsen's 4th without the tunes, but somehow very satisfying to listen to anyway.

cilgwyn

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #381 on: August 08, 2018, 07:39:46 AM »
I just ran across this thread.

I have the Hyperion discs of all of the symphonies, from back before the boxed set existed, and all of the quartets from #7 onward. I have to admit I'm very ambivalent about this composer. I agree with Johan that his real strength is in long-range planning and in articulating the process by which material is developed. His material, by itself, is generally not very interesting - but that isn't a flaw in itself, many of Beethoven's themes were not very interesting in and of themselves. But there seems to be a dearth of human expression in much of his music - the word that came to mind for me was prosaic, as opposed to poetic. Not all of it, mind you, but enough that I don't find it easy to relate to many of his works.

That said, several of his symphonies and quartets really appeal to me. The 9th quartet is full of both cleverness and a very wide range of expression, the 14th quartet I feel to be perhaps the most beautiful thing he ever wrote, especially in the slow movement; and of the symphonies, I love the 9th and especially the 10th. Simpson's orchestration has been called dull and unimaginative, but in my opinion it is anything but. His sonorities are quite his own, especially the way he doubles the low brass with high woodwind at odd intervals of fifths and thirds plus several octaves, getting a gleaming, elemental, almost organ-like effect that no one else has conjured up out of the orchestra. This fingerprint is first evident in the 4th symphony and becomes increasingly prominent from the 6th onward.

I don't think the 10th has been mentioned yet in this thread - this is my favorite Simpson symphony, especially in the last two movements. The slow movement, like the scherzo it follows, is full of icy mystery and the finale is another of Simpson's studies of a specific Beethoven work, this time the finale of the Hammerklavier. It's much craggier than the Beethoven and full of sudden dynamic shifts and changes of direction. The ending usually has me jumping out of my seat.

The 11th a tribute to Holmboe? As the Dane is my favorite composer I must have another listen soon to see if I can hear this. It has never struck me that way though.
Thanks for explaining some of his orchestration. It's very interesting to know how he gets some of these effects. I think the "organ-like effect" you refer to is one of the sounds that Simpson creates from his orchestration which appeals to me. In fact,it is the sonorities that he creates in a symphony like the eighth which keeps me listening. I particularly like his use of woodwind and brass. Not having heard all of the symphonies,and the music having only recently "clicked" with me,only time will tell whether it will continue to maintain my current level of interest. I am certainly curious to hear more.

Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #382 on: August 08, 2018, 12:04:13 PM »

The 11th a tribute to Holmboe? As the Dane is my favorite composer I must have another listen soon to see if I can hear this. It has never struck me that way though.

That's just entirely my own speculation, I've never seen anyone else suggest this. It's simply based on the different feel and direction that Simpson appears to be taking (as with the Flute Concerto of the previous year), more pastoral mystic (though he would have hated that description (and so would Holmboe I guess)), and the fact that, to me, it sounds more like Holmboe than Simpson's other music.

Then I added the fact of Simpson's high regard for Holmboe (particularly his musical inventiveness and the way his compositions are completely based on a small amount of thematic material, what others have called Holmboe's modal serial music) and the fact that Holmboe was quite ill at this time. That's what I intuited about the 11th, but I could be completely wrong.

Ironically of course Simpson was soon after struck down by a stroke that left him paralysed and unable to compose, whereas Holmboe wrote the symphonies 11-13 in the 1990s before he died.

Offline krummholz

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #383 on: August 08, 2018, 12:30:38 PM »
Cilgwyn: Though I used the phrase myself, I'm not sure that "organ-like" is the best description of that particular sound. It's quite unique, something I've never heard in music by any other composer. The best example I can think of is in the coda to the 6th symphony, a phrase descending by semitones in the woodwinds that is repeated at least twice. A large woodwind choir intones the phrase, moving together in parallel somethingths. I can't even easily identify the individual instruments as it's the massed sound that makes the effect (and I don't have the score).

Calyptorhynchus: a slight nit as to the dates of composition of Holmboe's 11-13. The 13th was indeed composed during the early 1990s, but the 11th and 12th were from a few years earlier. I think #11 dates from 1980 or so and #12 from 1987 or thereabouts - roughly contemporary with Simpson's 9th I think. Yes Simpson's 11th is more sedate, maybe pastoral, but it doesn't remind me of Holmboe's music particularly. It sounds to me like Simpson and only Simpson, but a new direction in his music, as you say, and it's everyone's loss that the stroke cut off his creative work so cruelly. The only piece I've heard that he wrote after his stroke (actually dictated to his wife, I believe) is the String Quintet #2, and it's a grim work indeed.

BTW have you heard the Simpson Flute Concerto or are you going from the score? If there is a recording available I haven't heard about it, but would love to get it!
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 12:33:25 PM by krummholz »

Offline arpeggio

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #384 on: August 08, 2018, 01:14:29 PM »
Holst's Moorside Suite is an example and he wrote two suites for Brass Band - there is a Vaughan Williams Variations for Brass Band. Miaskovsky's 19th Symphony and Morton Gould's 'West Point Symphony' are other examples I think.

There is a difference between a brass band and wind band.  The brass band is just brass instruments.  A wind band includes woodwinds: flutes, oboe, clarinets, bassoons and saxophones.  Each medium has its own unique sound world.  The Miakovsky and Gould works are for wind or concert band.

Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #385 on: August 08, 2018, 02:12:02 PM »
Calyptorhynchus: a slight nit as to the dates of composition of Holmboe's 11-13. The 13th was indeed composed during the early 1990s, but the 11th and 12th were from a few years earlier. I think #11 dates from 1980 or so and #12 from 1987 or thereabouts - roughly contemporary with Simpson's 9th I think. Yes Simpson's 11th is more sedate, maybe pastoral, but it doesn't remind me of Holmboe's music particularly. It sounds to me like Simpson and only Simpson, but a new direction in his music, as you say, and it's everyone's loss that the stroke cut off his creative work so cruelly. The only piece I've heard that he wrote after his stroke (actually dictated to his wife, I believe) is the String Quintet #2, and it's a grim work indeed.

BTW have you heard the Simpson Flute Concerto or are you going from the score? If there is a recording available I haven't heard about it, but would love to get it!
Whoops, my bad about the Holmboe Ss 11 & 12. But he did keep composing in the 90s until his death.

A recording of the original BBC Radio 3 premiere of the Flute Concerto is available, i’ll post the link when i get home tonight. But the same performer (and dedicatee) of the work has recorded the work and it will be released later this year i believe
 :D

Offline krummholz

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #386 on: August 08, 2018, 03:57:24 PM »
Whoops, my bad about the Holmboe Ss 11 & 12. But he did keep composing in the 90s until his death.

Indeed he did. I think the String Quartet Concerto was his last completed work; and as far as I know, it has never been performed much less recorded. And then there is the very strange Quartetto Sereno that was "completed" by Per Norgard after Holmboe's death...

Quote
A recording of the original BBC Radio 3 premiere of the Flute Concerto is available, i’ll post the link when i get home tonight. But the same performer (and dedicatee) of the work has recorded the work and it will be released later this year i believe
 :D

Great news! Do you know which label it will be released on? And thanks in advance for the link!

Online vandermolen

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #387 on: August 08, 2018, 11:49:10 PM »
There is a difference between a brass band and wind band.  The brass band is just brass instruments.  A wind band includes woodwinds: flutes, oboe, clarinets, bassoons and saxophones.  Each medium has its own unique sound world.  The Miakovsky and Gould works are for wind or concert band.

I had a feeling that that might be the case when I suggested those works but thanks for the clarification.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #388 on: February 25, 2019, 04:38:44 AM »
Finally picked up my first recording of the Robert Simpson symphony cycle on Hyperion. In this case, Nos. 3 & 5. Listening to No. 3 now. It's the same orchestra and conductor that recorded one of my favourite orchestral series ever, that of Bantock's works, namely the Royal PO/Handley. So I have high hopes for this, and I'm enjoying it so far. A motif of two repeated notes is asserting dominance currently.

I'm very impressed with the Fifth Symphony. The endings to both the first movement and finale brought to my mind MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie. The way an unrelenting and seemingly unstoppable surge of forward momentum is suddenly halted to leave a static chord, with the Allegro frequently bursting in to try and interrupt the chord, only for those interruptions to gradually break down into nothing.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2019, 05:55:28 AM by Maestro267 »

Offline André

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #389 on: April 03, 2019, 04:51:56 PM »
I haven't listened to the symphonies in a very long while. Lately I've immersed myself in the orchestral works of Holmboe, Koppel, Kinsella and Nielsen. And now Simpson. I hear and feel a kinship between these composers. Obviously Nielsen kind of looms over the others, not so much in terms of quality (I’d have a hard time ranking them), but in having initiated a musical language that evolved from angular, blocky phrases clothed in sharply lit colours to an almost abstract pointillism (6th symphony). I hear that heritage in Koppel, Kinsella and Simpson especially.

Simpson’s musical hero is said to be Beethoven - if I am to believe some mentions made in the notes to the Hyperion issues, although the influence of Sibelius and Nielsen is also mentioned, esp with regard to the first symphonies. The manic, violent scherzo of the 4th symphony reminds me of Walton, too.

Symphonies 1, 2, 4 and 8 which I have listened to today bear out an outsize, formidable personality, as well as a total command of his resources. Whatever influences one may notice, there’s no denying that Simpson has absorbed and assimilated 150 years of musical evolution and managed to develop an original, immediately identifiable voice. I don’t know if I’ll listen to all 11 symphonies in the coming days, but so far it’s an excellent musical adventure.

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #390 on: August 06, 2019, 06:32:37 AM »
Picked up two more Simpson symphony discs today, Nos. 1 & 8, and Nos. 2 & 4.

I'm loving the driving energy of a lot of this music.

Online vandermolen

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #391 on: August 06, 2019, 08:10:32 AM »
Picked up two more Simpson symphony discs today, Nos. 1 & 8, and Nos. 2 & 4.

I'm loving the driving energy of a lot of this music.
No.1 is my favourite of the five or six that I know.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #392 on: August 06, 2019, 08:36:44 AM »
The booklet note for No. 2 puts it better than I ever will, so:

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"...it is astonishing to hear how Simpson can make this Finale roar whilst still employing an orchestra of relatively modest proportions."

I think the same can be said for No. 1. I've never heard music scored for early-Beethovenian forces sound so modern and spiky.

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #393 on: January 23, 2020, 02:10:38 PM »
Ordered the Hyperion recording of No. 9. This is the one I've seen the most praise for of all the Simpson symphonies, so I'm really looking forward to hearing this.

Simpson's cycle is definitely the most exciting set of symphonies I've discovered in the last year or so. The ones I've heard have something fascinating about them from a structural point of view, and the music is spiky and punchy. It's been quite easy to pick up on what's going on, most notably the Trio of the Fourth Symphony, where a Haydn quotation remains simple and calm in all its utterances, while interrupted by increasingly loud and dramatic outbursts from the full brass and percussion.

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #394 on: January 28, 2020, 07:15:06 AM »
Listening to Symphony No. 9 now, after having listened first to the talk by the composer that accompanies the recording. I'm definitely feeling the single pulse throughout the work. I keep ticking along seconds in my head and it feels right.

Offline J

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #395 on: January 28, 2020, 09:12:37 AM »
Can someone identify the most tuneful music Simpson ever wrote?

Correction: Can someone identify ANY tuneful music Simpson ever wrote?

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #396 on: January 28, 2020, 10:53:09 AM »
Not all music has to have a "tune". If you're after "tunes", maybe Simpson isn't for you. But if you want music that packs a punch, with surging energy and intensity, it could be.

Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #397 on: January 29, 2020, 12:38:11 AM »
Can someone identify the most tuneful music Simpson ever wrote?

Correction: Can someone identify ANY tuneful music Simpson ever wrote?

It's perfectly possible to whistle along to any of Simpson's symphonies except maybe #5

 ;)

Offline krummholz

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #398 on: January 30, 2020, 06:17:51 AM »
It's perfectly possible to whistle along to any of Simpson's symphonies except maybe #5

 ;)
Agreed! I think the most "whistlable" is probably the 4th, with the 1st a close second. But I've found myself whistling or humming the 9th's "wedge" motif on many occasions, and even parts of the 10th's slow movement can be whistled after a few close hearings.

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #399 on: January 30, 2020, 07:46:17 AM »
I have been wanting to get into Simpson, but haven’t yet. Among Simpsons’ symphonies, which recordings are known to have involved sufficient rehearsal time? I vaguely recall hearing that at least some recordings involved virtually no rehearsals at all.