Author Topic: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)  (Read 43575 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #400 on: January 30, 2020, 08:48:13 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.

I went through a traversal of Simpson’s symphonies years ago and was left wholly unsatisfied. There was simply nothing to latch onto intellectually or emotionally. Some of dullest music I’ve heard.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #401 on: January 30, 2020, 12:35:22 PM »
I went through a traversal of Simpson’s symphonies years ago and was left wholly unsatisfied. There was simply nothing to latch onto intellectually or emotionally. Some of dullest music I’ve heard.

Funny that, if I went on the Brahms thread and said exactly the same thing I'd get howled down. De gustibus...

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #402 on: January 30, 2020, 02:56:04 PM »
Simpson is an acquired taste, methinks. Since he was influenced by Nielsen, I find that appealing, and Nielsen is one of my very favorite composers, hence Simpson's symphonic music also resonates with me to some extent. I've listened to all the symphonies and I like them. The way he develops the musical argument is incredible, despite it can sound cerebral or cold, all sounds highly organic and cohesive to my ears, not to say the sense of pulsing energy that permeates his symphonies. It's exciting and well-thought.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #403 on: January 30, 2020, 07:57:12 PM »
Funny that, if I went on the Brahms thread and said exactly the same thing I'd get howled down. De gustibus...

Not by me. We’re all entitled to our opinions no matter how ridiculous they may seem to the other person.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Christo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #404 on: January 30, 2020, 11:21:26 PM »
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.

Haha, +1

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.

Really? Good, and fully agreed, though Simpson by far the most 'coolly, analytical' of this specific bunch of composers IMHO.  :)
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #405 on: January 30, 2020, 11:38:14 PM »
I think that there is something in the 'Nielsen without the tunes' view of Simpson but, having said that, I do get pleasure listening to symphonies 1 and 3 in particular. I like the historical recordings of those works conducted respectively by Boult and Horenstein. This year I'd like to explore more of his symphonies. I've heard that 4 may be a good place to start. Any other suggestions? I've listened to No.9 a few times and am beginning to appreciate it more. The British Composers CD is worth having for the fine Symphony by Robin Orr and the Fricker work (Symphony No.2). I much prefer the original CD release of the Simpson 3rd Symphony on Unicorn than the later release featuring the composer and his pipe.
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« Last Edit: January 30, 2020, 11:44:30 PM by vandermolen »
"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 krummholz

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #406 on: January 31, 2020, 05:15:49 AM »
I agree that Simpson is an acquired taste - at least, it was that way in my experience. The adjective I used to describe his music when I first heard it was "prosaic". I think I started off with the 6th symphony, and was very unimpressed on first hearing. I was not immediately struck by the 9th either, but with repeated hearings it grew on me.  Much of his music has an elemental quality, like an impersonal force of nature, rather than an expression of human emotion. The first movement of the 3rd symphony, most of the 5th, and the whole of the 10th all have that quality in my opinion. Even his string quartets seem less intimately expressive than an attempt to work out some abstract and purely musical problem. I find that Simpson's music has to be listened to with the ear and the intellect rather than the heart, but if approached from the right perspective, it can be an engaging and even thrilling experience.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2020, 05:17:21 AM by krummholz »

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #407 on: January 31, 2020, 06:08:09 AM »
I've found it to be an immensely thrilling experience listening to the symphonies I have heard. Even the symphonies I thought I wouldn't enjoy because of their relatively light scoring, I've really enjoyed them.

Offline Christo

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #408 on: January 31, 2020, 07:48:34 AM »
The first movement of the 3rd symphony, most of the 5th, and the whole of the 10th all have that quality in my opinion.

Good to learn, as I never found enough time to play them all. Yet I love the Third and admired the Ninth from the very first time I heard them, especially Nine a symphony I often returned to, even many times in my car. Will try Ten again ASAP (own most of them, but own thousands of cd's without time to play them even once.  :D )
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline André

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #409 on: January 31, 2020, 11:21:11 AM »
I agree that Simpson is an acquired taste - at least, it was that way in my experience. The adjective I used to describe his music when I first heard it was "prosaic". I think I started off with the 6th symphony, and was very unimpressed on first hearing. I was not immediately struck by the 9th either, but with repeated hearings it grew on me.  Much of his music has an elemental quality, like an impersonal force of nature, rather than an expression of human emotion. The first movement of the 3rd symphony, most of the 5th, and the whole of the 10th all have that quality in my opinion. Even his string quartets seem less intimately expressive than an attempt to work out some abstract and purely musical problem. I find that Simpson's music has to be listened to with the ear and the intellect rather than the heart, but if approached from the right perspective, it can be an engaging and even thrilling experience.

+1

There’s certainly a case for considering Simpson’s music (symphonic and chamber) as abstract constructions in sound, a bit like some abstractionist paintings by Klee or Delaunay for example. Or like some of J.S. Bach’s works where girding one’s mental loins is a prerequisite before listening  (the Art of Fugue or Mass in b minor for example, where Bach used lots of musical symbolism). Brain and emotions must be on the same wavelength.

I find this to be the case also with some composers’ music, in particular those I mentioned earlier (Koppel, Kinsella, Simpson, Holmboe for example) or others like Reger, Carter or Ligeti. They are not ‘difficult’ composers, their music is objectively approachable and does not call for unusual sonic experiences. So, yes: ear and intellect are more solicited than usual, and the rewards may not be immediate.

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #410 on: January 31, 2020, 11:28:33 AM »
I find this to be the case also with some composers’ music, in particular those I mentioned earlier (Koppel, Kinsella, Simpson, Holmboe for example) or others like Reger, Carter or Ligeti. They are not ‘difficult’ composers, their music is objectively approachable and does not call for unusual sonic experiences. So, yes: ear and intellect are more solicited than usual, and the rewards may not be immediate.

And those often turn out to be the most rewarding works. If you have to put some effort in to grasp a piece of music, when it finally clicks with you it's all the more wonderful.

Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #411 on: January 31, 2020, 12:18:54 PM »
I agree with much of what has been said about elemental qualities of Simpson's music, however some of his pieces are also marvellously beautiful. The first String Quintet is one such piece. Sometimes I find myself surprised in the middle of an elemental or 'intellectual' piece with a passage that I suddenly realise is pure English pastoral seen/heard through Simpson's eyes/ears.

I think that this thread is a bit different from any another on this board because we really only have one set of recordings to talk about whereas with other composers the posters can compare recordings. The other thing is that Simpson's music seems to have this quality that you either love or hate it, and if people hate it then they really do hate it. I think it has to do with the fact that Simpson was a public figure writing and broadcasting about music and was obviously a Very Clever Person. Such people always invite detractors (in Australia we call it the Tall Poppy Syndrome). However, he's wasn't a pretender to the title and he really could compose.

Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #412 on: January 31, 2020, 12:29:23 PM »
This year I'd like to explore more of his symphonies. I've heard that 4 may be a good place to start. Any other suggestions?


No 8.

I've never understood why this work isn't more popular, but I suppose the idea it illustrates is quite difficult to grasp. It starts off all innocent and naive and then dark forces invade the music. This is like Nielsen's 6th, where, in Simpsons' interpretation, it turns out that what seem to be sinister elements (the key of Bflat) in the end have to be embraced joyfully as they represent Nielsen state of health and his heart condition. In Simpson's 8th it seems a more straight forward good versus evil struggle through the first two movements with a recovery beginning in the third (a slow fugue, like Nielsen's 5th, thinking the music through to the conclusion). However what emerges isn't good or a triumph it's simply musical energy no longer negative, but potentially positive. I guess thinking about that and trying to extend it to beyond music is quite far from usual thought, or 'non-strategic' in management babble.

Or No.7 where D and C are locked in death struggle that in the end results in a terrifying stasis with the pitch of C# (not the key). Pretty much like modern politics.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
« Reply #413 on: January 31, 2020, 01:27:40 PM »
No 8.

I've never understood why this work isn't more popular, but I suppose the idea it illustrates is quite difficult to grasp. It starts off all innocent and naive and then dark forces invade the music. This is like Nielsen's 6th, where, in Simpsons' interpretation, it turns out that what seem to be sinister elements (the key of Bflat) in the end have to be embraced joyfully as they represent Nielsen state of health and his heart condition. In Simpson's 8th it seems a more straight forward good versus evil struggle through the first two movements with a recovery beginning in the third (a slow fugue, like Nielsen's 5th, thinking the music through to the conclusion). However what emerges isn't good or a triumph it's simply musical energy no longer negative, but potentially positive. I guess thinking about that and trying to extend it to beyond music is quite far from usual thought, or 'non-strategic' in management babble.

Or No.7 where D and C are locked in death struggle that in the end results in a terrifying stasis with the pitch of C# (not the key). Pretty much like modern politics.
Thank you for the suggestion. I'm fairly sure that 8 is coupled with Symphony No.1 in the Hyperion series and I have that CD. I hope that you keep safe in Canberra.
"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 #414 on: February 04, 2020, 11:12:08 AM »
A second listen to the 9th Symphony yesterday allowed me to mentally break the huge one-movement work into three large sections. There were definitely two points where, although the music continued, there seemed to be a change and a move onto a new "thought", so to speak. The first was where the huge chorale-prelude (a 15-minute long single track on the recording) went straight into a scherzo-like section, and then the gradual slowing down of the scherzo section into an Adagio some tracks later. From the start of the Adagio to the end of the whole symphony felt like one large section, even if it did give the illusion of moving into a faster tempo later on. Although the entire symphony is in one basic pulse, so any illusion of change on the tempo front is purely based on the note lengths rather than an actual change in tempo.