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The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: Dundonnell on March 25, 2008, 02:09:14 PM

Title: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 25, 2008, 02:09:14 PM
A number of members have referred recently in posts on other topics to the writings of the distinguished British composer Robert Simpson. Simpson's fine books on Bruckner and on Nielsen are outstanding contributions to the field of musical literature and have provided a great deal of insight and enjoyment to readers.

I thought that Simpson really does deserve a thread of his own! He was a man of the utmost integrity who did sterling work as a BBC music producer, refused to compromise his principles and spoke out in defence of those principles. He resigned from the BBC in protest against what we would now call "dumbing down" despite the fact that this resignation cost him a full BBC pension. The interest he showed in the music of Havergal Brian and his passionate support for the music of that previously neglected composer led to the performance and broadcasting of so many Brian symphonies during the 1970s.

As a composer, Simpson, was, I believe, a major figure in British music. The Hyperion record label did Simpson proud with its series devoted to his symphonies and string quartets. There are certainly many respected authorities who believe that the string quartets stand, alongside those by Shostakovich, as among the finest written in the 20th century.

The eleven symphonies are equally fine compositions of tremendous power and passion. Some are easier to grasp than others but no-one should have any difficulty with-for example-Nos. 1, 2 and 3. The first shows the influence of Carl Nielsen, one of Simpson's heroes. The 2nd has the most wonderful palindromic slow movement.

My own favourites however are the huge 4th(although I must admit to being disappointed that Simpson chose to radically revise the original slow movement!), the powerful 5th and 6th, and-of course-the 9th, a gigantic masterpiece of awe-inspiring power.

Simpson also wrote a number of concertos but only the Piano Concerto was(briefly) available on disc.

It always seemed to me that one of the reasons that Robert Simpson and Havergal Brian got on so well together was that they both had that strong streak of craggy individualism and gritty independence which contributed so much to character and which each man identified in the other's music.

I hope that one day Hyperion may be able to complete their Simpson collection.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 25, 2008, 02:30:18 PM
I admire Robert Simpson very much, as a composer, as a writer on music, and as a BBC producer with an adventurous streak, without whom there would be no 'Brian Renaissance' and, perhaps, no 'Indian Summer' for Havergal Brian, in which he composed 20 symphonies after the age of 80.

I say 'admire' on purpose. Because I don't 'love' Simpson's symphonies. That is not a sentiment they inspire in me. They are too elemental for that. The Ninth is, indeed, awe-inspiring. There are sounds there that you won't believe are possible, really 'cosmic' (and that is no exaggeration).

On a more critical note - I have also felt sometimes, listening to his music, that there was something of the laboratory about it. Experimentation and research behind glass. The human voice isn't behind his music. And there is not much Earth. Simpson is developmental, logical, and rather angry...

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 25, 2008, 03:18:22 PM
I understand your reservations. There is, I suppose, a certain lack of warmth, an absence of much sense of humour, an academic rigour and grimness which might preclude love even if not admiration. I 'warm' more to the music of, say, Edmund Rubbra than I do to Simpson.

As powerful and immensely well-written essays in late 20th century symphonism Simpson does however I believe demonstrate that the symphony as a musical form need not disappear!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 25, 2008, 03:37:55 PM
As powerful and immensely well-written essays in late 20th century symphonism Simpson does however I believe demonstrate that the symphony as a musical form need not disappear!

I agree!

Some of Simpson's grimness may also stem from the feeling he must undoubtedly have had, of swimming against the (serial) tide. It's better for an artist to feel himself borne up. You need a very strong character to work in opposition to the times and still be fresh, generous, colourful and confident.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 25, 2008, 03:55:47 PM
I agree!

Some of Simpson's grimness may also stem from the feeling he must undoubtedly have had, of swimming against the (serial) tide. It's better for an artist to feel himself borne up. You need a very strong character to work in opposition to the times and still be fresh, generous, colourful and confident.

I am determined to resist the temptation to launch an attack on the late Sir William Glock, the BBC Controller of Music in the 1950s and 1960s!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 25, 2008, 04:08:47 PM
On 13 November 1998 I wrote the following about Brian vs Simpson:

Too little in Simpson of the messy business of being human. Whereas Brian is the Earth, sometimes looking upwards to watch the stars, Simpson wants to be those stars with their inhuman and inscrutable processes. Yes, he puts himself on the side of organic growth, but in humans subjectivity (a term of abuse to Simpson) sometimes rides rough-shod over all consistency. This you can hear in Brian. And that is why Brian, despite being less of a theorist about the Symphony, is the greater symphonist. Melody carries the stamp of the ego; it is this which Simpson eschews, it is this which makes his works, at their best, powerful and impressive, but also neutral and unmoving.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 25, 2008, 04:26:44 PM
On 13 November 1998 I wrote the following about Brian vs Simpson:

Too little in Simpson of the messy business of being human. Whereas Brian is the Earth, sometimes looking upwards to watch the stars, Simpson wants to be those stars with their inhuman and inscrutable processes. Yes, he puts himself on the side of organic growth, but in humans subjectivity (a term of abuse to Simpson) sometimes rides rough-shod over all consistency. This you can hear in Brian. And that is why Brian, despite being less of a theorist about the Symphony, is the greater symphonist. Melody carries the stamp of the ego; it is this which Simpson eschews, it is this which makes his works, at their best, powerful and impressive, but also neutral and unmoving.

Wow! That's good writing!

You seem to be of a similar mind to Mark Morris in 'The Pimlico Dictionary of Twentieth Century Composers'-a book I very much admire and find of very great use-even though I don't always agree with him(he is very dismissive of Tubin, Malcolm Arnold and George Lloyd, for example).

Morris says "...the spark that would give life to the music, and not mere existence, is, for whatever reason, missing". He praises Simpson's impeccable musical logic, his dark, rugged northern cast but laments a lack of memorable material, of emotional impact and describes Simpson's orchestral colour as dull.

No...I don't think I can go that far. And even if these criticisms are fair I can forgive a composer who could compose a symphony as gripping as the 9th.
I would compare Simpson with the highly esteemed Danish composer, Vagn Holmboe. There is probably more variety of light and colour in Holmboe's music but both are serious composers of genuine substance. Amongst all the dross in modern music of the late 20th century we should value those who could actually structure orchestral music into coherent form.

Oh...and I like Simpson's music...if that is not obvious!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: not edward on March 25, 2008, 04:30:05 PM
I'd agree with the view espoused here that Simpson's music can be rather dry and austere (though often volcanic in its intensity). I find many of the symphonies command respect rather than admiration, but when Simpson's at his best (for me the 5th and 9th symphonies and some of the late chamber music) I find the music extremely compelling. The 11th symphony is interesting, too: the textures are airier, lighter, more transparent. I wish Simpson had had time to explore the direction promised in this work: I think it could have been very fruitful.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 25, 2008, 04:33:45 PM
I'd agree with the view espoused here that Simpson's music can be rather dry and austere (though often volcanic in its intensity). I find many of the symphonies command respect rather than admiration, but when Simpson's at his best (for me the 5th and 9th symphonies and some of the late chamber music) I find the music extremely compelling. The 11th symphony is interesting, too: the textures are airier, lighter, more transparent. I wish Simpson had had time to explore the direction promised in this work: I think it could have been very fruitful.

"volcanic" Good word! Very descriptive. I agree!

Good point about the 11th symphony! I suspect-although I do not know-that the late and unrecorded cello and flute concertos might be revealing of a different side to Simpson.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: some guy on March 25, 2008, 04:39:41 PM
Let's see now.

utmost integrity ... sterling work as a BBC music producer, refused to compromise his principles and spoke out in defence of those principles.

Why, that sounds like a description of Sir William Glock. Yes indeed, it does....
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 25, 2008, 04:55:31 PM
Let's see now.

Why, that sounds like a description of Sir William Glock. Yes indeed, it does....

Oh, tempting, tempting!!

Glock did a fantastic amount of good work during his period at the BBC and as founder of the Dartington Hall summer music school. His advocacy of and the exposure he gave to a whole raft of modern composers at the Proms and in other BBC broadcasts brought the names and music of these composers to a much wider public. No one can or should take that away from him.....BUT the issue is one of balance.
The utter neglect of a generation of particularly British composers for whom Glock had absolutely no time at all is tragic. These composers were simply banished from the airwaves and-in some cases-totally from the consciousness of the British music public.

I don't doubt Glock's commitment to modern music, nor would I wish to question his integrity. I used to rant about his policies in the late 1960s and I don't want to start again now though! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: some guy on March 25, 2008, 06:24:04 PM
Well, I gave you your chance, and you spent it being gentlemanly and courteous and balanced and fair!

Where's the sport in that??

Anyway, sorry for interrupting. Now back to the late great Mr. Simpson.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on March 26, 2008, 05:58:08 AM
On 13 November 1998 I wrote the following about Brian vs Simpson:

Too little in Simpson of the messy business of being human. Whereas Brian is the Earth, sometimes looking upwards to watch the stars, Simpson wants to be those stars with their inhuman and inscrutable processes. Yes, he puts himself on the side of organic growth, but in humans subjectivity (a term of abuse to Simpson) sometimes rides rough-shod over all consistency. This you can hear in Brian. And that is why Brian, despite being less of a theorist about the Symphony, is the greater symphonist. Melody carries the stamp of the ego; it is this which Simpson eschews, it is this which makes his works, at their best, powerful and impressive, but also neutral and unmoving.

That's a load of crap.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 26, 2008, 07:34:54 AM
That's a load of crap.

Your sentence isn't even that. Please refute me.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on March 26, 2008, 09:41:55 AM
Your sentence isn't even that. Please refute me.

There is nothing to refute, it's not an argument it's a collection of metaphors.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 26, 2008, 10:00:38 AM
There is nothing to refute, it's not an argument it's a collection of metaphors.

Granted. But behind them stands a listening experience. This note was made ten years ago, for myself. I thought it might be of interest to people who know Simpson and Brian. I expressed in images what my thinking boiled down to. To you it seemed crap. It isn't.

But if you want, I'll rephrase what I expressed there: Simpson loves process and development. His two most important influences are Beethoven and Nielsen. My point is that, whereas with them process and development take on a human form, in Simpson I can't hear that as strongly: his seems more the growth of a galaxy or a star.

Melody stems from the human voice, but Simpson thinks not vocally but instrumentally. Despite my admiration for Simpson as a symphonic thinker (and the writer of two excellent studies on Bruckner and Nielsen), Havergal Brian, who wasn't as systematic and logical as Simpson, wrote the greater symphonies, in my opinion, because the sort of processes they make audible are more human, though the elemental is there too.

That's all.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on March 26, 2008, 10:25:23 AM
I understood what you said, you did not have to rephrase it.  Your concept of melody is naive and oversimplistic.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 26, 2008, 10:34:55 AM
I understood what you said, you did not have to rephrase it.  Your concept of melody is naive and oversimplistic.

I like the echo of the inflections of human speech in instrumental music. Was Janacek naive when he based his music on the rhythmic patterns of the Czech language? But I'd be interested to hear your concept of melody. It's never too late to learn. Plus: teach me something about Simpson, if you can. That's the subject of this thread. Perhaps my appreciation will grow.

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 26, 2008, 02:58:23 PM
Interestingly, Simpson wrote very little vocal music! 'Media morte in vita sumus' for chorus, brass and timpani(1975) and 'Tempi' for mixed voice chorus a capella(1987).

I am trying to think of another prominent British composer who wrote as little vocal music.

William Alwyn wrote an opera('Miss Julie'). Richard Arnell hasn't written much. Neither did Sir Malcolm Arnold('The Song of Simeon'-1959, Five William Blake Songs-1959, 'The Return of Odysseus'-1976 and a few others).

Does that prove anything? Possibly not!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on March 27, 2008, 12:33:32 PM
I adore his 9th quartet - a work I find simultaneously thrilling and extremely daunting...

I have yet to become as close to any of his symphonies as I feel to his 11th, which I can't get enough of :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 27, 2008, 12:51:35 PM
I adore his 9th quartet - a work I find simultaneously thrilling and extremely daunting...

I have yet to become as close to any of his symphonies as I feel to his 11th, which I can't get enough of :)

Yes, Simpson at his best is 'thrilling and daunting'.. I haven't heard the 11th Symphony yet (I know 1 to 9). Why can't you get enough of it?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on March 27, 2008, 01:07:36 PM
I haven't heard the 11th Symphony yet (I know 1 to 9). Why can't you get enough of it?

I find it very different from his others in its more limited scale, lighter textures and generally less enormous scope. The structure (two movements in quite distinct feels - the first mid-tempo, the second scherzo styled) is a lot easier to grasp hold of than some of his other works which could be sub-divided into an enormous amount of sections (as some the original Hyperion releases did), and I find that a bit of an obstacle towards understanding a few of the earlier ones. Unlike much of his other work there are less feelings of struggle involved in the 11th, the first movement borders on playful, the second exudes confidence before the well known ending with a casual "flick of the wrist". The overall feeling is acceptance throughout, rather than any difficulty, and as a result it feels a little less icy, emotionally, and more able to form a connection to.

This is from memory, though - I haven't heard the piece in a while. I should revisit soon :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 27, 2008, 01:21:27 PM
If that is 'from memory', you obviously have listened very well. Thanks!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 29, 2008, 06:19:11 AM
I like Symphony 1 (Boult) and 3 (Horenstein), the others I struggle with. To me they sound a bit like Nielsen without the tunes, but I wil persevere with Nos 2, 4 and 9 following recommendations here.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Harry on March 29, 2008, 06:26:52 AM
I started collecting the compositions by Simpson when Hyperion started with recording his Symphonies and SQ, and they have a strange mesmerizing effect on me.....
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on June 16, 2009, 08:24:33 AM
I am once again at the beginning of what seems to be turning into a major Simpson kick. I can't get enough of his unique style. Who could've thought that mere tonality and fine tinkering could be so divisive, prompting claims of "greatest late 20th century composer" and "absolutely boring" in equal measure. It fascinates me how he can use both the vehicle and the engine of the Romantic symphony, yet create music which is so far left-field that I have to smile. I don't mean this in a negative way when I say that I am amazed at how little overt emotion there is in this music. Even the coolest of 20th century Romantic/tonal-influenced aren't a patch on Simpson's strangely beautiful crystalline musings. This is not to say that the music cannot be passionate, but it is all taken to levels of such abstraction that it can require a major re-adjustment of the ears to appreciate. While it may gall some people to see the two mentioned in the same sentence, I do find some of Bach's transcendent qualities in this music - it has no real-life crutches, it exists in and as of itself (for want of a better phrased term). You can delve into the many inventive structural qualities to the music, or simply admire the many fine surface qualities to it.

Part of what prompted me to replay his CDs recently was the realisation that I had retained many of his tunes and structures in my mind - some of them were very, very deeply ingrained in me. It is strange, as many do not consider Simpson a particularly melodic composer. I would agree with this, perhaps it is the context of the themes which is crucial rather than the themes themselves. But none the less, something about the music strikes me as utterly vital, and perhaps substantial segments of the 9th quartet remaining with me for a year or two after last hearing the piece (during which time many Romantic tunesmiths have come and gone) is as direct of an endorsement as I can give...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on June 16, 2009, 08:55:24 AM
Admirable post, Sarah. You describe Simpson's music very well. His dispassionateness is at once his strength and his weakness, depending on what you want from music. Although he'll never be my favourite composer, I know I will be returning to Simpson, like you, because his music is so rich and rewarding. A man who can write that Ninth symphony must be one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: jowcol on June 16, 2009, 10:04:53 AM
I might as well weigh in on this-- it's interesting that I feel the same as a lot of you about Simpson.   In some ways I feel the same about him as I feel about Beethoven-- the structure, the form, and the rhythm is all very compelling, but there isnt' much color-- or I don't care for the colors as much as I could.

I've been pondering laterly on the difference between being a great orchestrator vs a great composer as I've been bouncing between Atterberg and Holmboe. (Rimsky Korsakov considered orchestration an essential part of composition, while Stravinsky maintained that the great orchestrators were not necessarily great composers-- he cited Rimsky and Ravel).  I have no doubt that Holmboe is a more solid composer than Atterberg-- but sometimes I found myself listening to Atterberg just for the color.

Back to Simpson- he's definitely a COMPOSER.  Not much in the way of color or a beguiling melody, but massive structures.

I really love (and I mean LOVE) the 9th.  It's just so massive, and the last 10 minutes or so is so powerful that it's hard not to surrender to it.
Among others, I like the 6th (the one about the cycle of life),  and the end of the 5th is wonderfully strong.  I bought the other volumes in the cycle as they were avaialble, and I confess the others haven't stuck with me as they should.  Not Simpson's fault.  I blame on my moods.  I really plan to get back to him.

I have the whole cycle on my MP3 player, so when Simpson calls, I'll be ready....
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on June 16, 2009, 05:28:06 PM
I am once again at the beginning of what seems to be turning into a major Simpson kick. I can't get enough of his unique style. Who could've thought that mere tonality and fine tinkering could be so divisive, prompting claims of "greatest late 20th century composer" and "absolutely boring" in equal measure. It fascinates me how he can use both the vehicle and the engine of the Romantic symphony, yet create music which is so far left-field that I have to smile. I don't mean this in a negative way when I say that I am amazed at how little overt emotion there is in this music. Even the coolest of 20th century Romantic/tonal-influenced aren't a patch on Simpson's strangely beautiful crystalline musings. This is not to say that the music cannot be passionate, but it is all taken to levels of such abstraction that it can require a major re-adjustment of the ears to appreciate. While it may gall some people to see the two mentioned in the same sentence, I do find some of Bach's transcendent qualities in this music - it has no real-life crutches, it exists in and as of itself (for want of a better phrased term). You can delve into the many inventive structural qualities to the music, or simply admire the many fine surface qualities to it.

Part of what prompted me to replay his CDs recently was the realisation that I had retained many of his tunes and structures in my mind - some of them were very, very deeply ingrained in me. It is strange, as many do not consider Simpson a particularly melodic composer. I would agree with this, perhaps it is the context of the themes which is crucial rather than the themes themselves. But none the less, something about the music strikes me as utterly vital, and perhaps substantial segments of the 9th quartet remaining with me for a year or two after last hearing the piece (during which time many Romantic tunesmiths have come and gone) is as direct of an endorsement as I can give...

Once again..a quite superb post full of acute insight and perception!

It is extremely hard to add anything to what you say but I would certainly agree with Jezetha and jowcol that a composer who could produce something as monumentally grand as the shattering magnificence of the Ninth Symphony is indeed worthy to be rated as a "great composer".

I would really appreciate some comment from Jezetha(Johan) about the influence of Havergal Brian on Simpson's music. Simpson was, of course, the great Brian advocate at the BBC from the 1950s onwards and a devoted Brian admirer. I wrestle with the question of how much Brian we can hear in Simpson...if any?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on June 16, 2009, 10:37:17 PM
I would really appreciate some comment from Jezetha(Johan) about the influence of Havergal Brian on Simpson's music. Simpson was, of course, the great Brian advocate at the BBC from the 1950s onwards and a devoted Brian admirer. I wrestle with the question of how much Brian we can hear in Simpson...if any?

I seem to remember from Malcolm Macdonald's Brian books that Simpson dedicated his Third Symphony to Brian and that the latter advised him, in that stage of his career, on matters of scoring. I can't hear any (direct) Brian influence. Beethoven and Nielsen are the dominant presences. Only in the use of the brass choir can a Brianic trace be detected; but that could stem as easily from Bruckner. I personally think Brian was of paramount importance to Simpson in his ethos - not caring a fig for fashion and boldly carving his own path. I think it is this which Simpson admired tremendously and it inspired him to do the same, and to go on doing it. (I recognise this: Brian was my main inspiration for a whole decade, keeping me on the artistic straight and narrow.) What it was that Simpson actually liked about Brian's music? Brian's 'humanisation of the bass instruments' and that you had to listen 'from the bottom up'. I have never seen an 'emotional' Simpson comment. But that is wholly in character.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on June 17, 2009, 01:28:54 AM
I recently re-visited the 9th Symphony for the first time in about 6 or 7 years. It was this symphony that got me listening to Simpson in the first place, way back in 1998. I was pleased to discover it still sounds wonderful after all these years, even if it doesn't quite hit with the impact of that first listen. (Also, my tastes may have changed a little in the meantime - I am not as focused on monster orchestral works as I used to be.)

I do find some of Bach's transcendent qualities in this music - it has no real-life crutches, it exists in and as of itself (for want of a better phrased term). You can delve into the many inventive structural qualities to the music, or simply admire the many fine surface qualities to it.

I've thought of the Bach analogy before, especially with regard to JSB's more forbidding abstract statements like The Art of Fugue. Some of late Beethoven also comes to mind. Also, one thing I like about Simpson is precisely the unfashionability of his sound: there are no cheap attention-grabbing tricks or populist gestures to undermine the integrity of the enterprise.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on June 17, 2009, 03:12:58 AM
Johan-thanks for that! I am sure that you are correct in what you say about the Brian connection.

Spitvalve-you too hit the nail on the head ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sean on June 22, 2009, 10:01:19 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. Brian's is boring but with good ideas that never take off. Brian can be Straussian but Simpson is the Continental and much less English composer; the slow movement from the 10th (or maybe it was the 11th) quartet is a very fine effort though...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on June 22, 2009, 10:58:01 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. Brian's is boring but with good ideas that never take off. Brian can be Straussian but Simpson is the Continental and much less English composer; the slow movement from the 10th (or maybe it was the 11th) quartet is a very fine effort though...

You are-of course-fully entitled to your opinion. I am sorry that you find Simpson's music "boring". I most certainly do not.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on June 22, 2009, 12:31:52 PM
Dundonnell

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

Simpson's music is indeed basically boring. Brian's is boring but with good ideas that never take off.

Why wrestle with boring composers? I applaud your heroism.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sean on June 22, 2009, 11:02:00 PM
I was being a bit trollish: these are the Simpson works I've explored and although he was not the most convincing figure for tonality in the post-tonal era, he's honest and solid enough.

Energy, Nielsen variations, Piano concerto, Symphonies Nos.4-5, 7, 9 & 11, String quartets Nos.1-11 &
String trio.


The Fourth symphony was another satisfying constructed work; later symphonies seem more anonymous.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on June 23, 2009, 02:20:06 AM
I was being a bit trollish: these are the Simpson works I've explored and although he was not the most convincing figure for tonality in the post-tonal era, he's honest and solid enough.

Energy, Nielsen variations, Piano concerto, Symphonies Nos.4-5, 7, 9 & 11, String quartets Nos.1-11 &
String trio.


The Fourth symphony was another satisfying constructed work; later symphonies seem more anonymous.

I am glad to see your judgment is based on an honest stab at understanding (and even loving). Obviously Simpson isn't for you.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Opus106 on July 19, 2010, 12:08:28 AM
Has Hyperion stated any reason for so frequently using images of astronomical objects/phenomenon on their discs of Simpson's music? I'm curious to know.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on July 19, 2010, 12:11:37 AM
Simpson had a big amateur interest in astronomy, so I assume that's the reason.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Opus106 on July 19, 2010, 12:23:39 AM
Simpson had a big amateur interest in astronomy, so I assume that's the reason.

Thanks. :) Somehow I missed that bit when searching Wikipedia. Turns out he was even a Fellow of the RAS.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: False_Dmitry 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. 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: jowcol 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 .

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo 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:

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/512VdP1vCuL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

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.)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Scarpia 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Brian 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Scarpia 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
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: drogulus 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Scarpia on November 11, 2010, 02:44:50 PM
I can't help but notice that Hyperion's special "please buy me" promotion (featuring discs that no one in the world has purchased for the longest time) always seems to feature Simpson.   Currently 3 of the 10 least popular Hyperion discs contain Simpson symphonies.   :D  The last batch also features several Simpson releases, if I recall correctly.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image on November 11, 2010, 09:53:57 PM
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."

This particular quote is so true and definitely how I feel.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image on November 11, 2010, 09:55:55 PM
I can't help but notice that Hyperion's special "please buy me" promotion (featuring discs that no one in the world has purchased for the longest time) always seems to feature Simpson.   Currently 3 of the 10 least popular Hyperion discs contain Simpson symphonies.   :D  The last batch also features several Simpson releases, if I recall correctly.

Well Simpson never set out to be a popular composer, which I admire. He made music that he wanted to make. He followed his own muse and I totally respect that even if the music doesn't always strike me as being memorable.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Albion on December 31, 2010, 01:48:08 AM
The Hyperion box set (7 discs) of the complete symphonies has just come down to £25.99 on Amazon - a real bargain and well worth considering if you haven't already acquired these discs:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Robert-Simpson-Royal-Philharmonic-Orchestra/dp/B000IB0DJ4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293788271&sr=8-1 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Robert-Simpson-Royal-Philharmonic-Orchestra/dp/B000IB0DJ4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293788271&sr=8-1)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on September 07, 2011, 01:25:01 PM
Looking  at Dundonnell's recommendations I am sorely tempted by the Fourth. I think I will put that on my 'list'!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on September 07, 2011, 02:03:26 PM
Looking  at Dundonnell's recommendations I am sorely tempted by the Fourth. I think I will put that on my 'list'!

If I can make a digital version of Simpson's Fourth it will be interesting to compare it with the Hyperion cd version.

The performance I have on tape is by the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. To my shame I appear to have taped that performance over the premiere of the work given by the Halle Orchestra under James Loughran :-[

Simpson revised the slow movement from Adagio to Andante. My fear is that the Davis version is the revised version(as on the Handley disc). I actually preferred the original but that may now be lost for good :(
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on September 07, 2011, 02:37:07 PM
This is a cassette you are talking about,I presume? And you taped over the premiere! Ouch!!!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on September 07, 2011, 02:53:50 PM
No. Reel-to-reel tape.

You could tape over things on tape.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: springrite on September 09, 2011, 07:40:18 AM
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.

Simpson's Variations on a Theme of Haydn is one of the best 20th century quartet that I have heard. If you remotely like any of his chamber music, you have to hear this one!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on September 09, 2011, 08:19:09 AM
Just a quick plug for his piano music.

When I see a single disc purporting to contain the complete piano music of a composer not known for this medium I tend to have immediate concerns that these will just be scraps; bits and pieces.

Simpson's piano music is rather fine, though - and very much in his style, especially the variations.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on November 18, 2011, 06:24:22 AM
Astonishing :o :o

One lives one's life with certain favourite composers and certain favourite works in recordings that are familiar, cherished and acclaimed............and then ::) ::)

I have just discovered-from an impeccable source(someone who knew Robert Simpson personally and very well)-that Simpson was extremely disappointed with some of the famous Vernon Handley readings of his symphonies as recorded for Hyperion: Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 8 in particular. They were under-rehearsed and, therefore, tentative :o

Simpson, apparently, had a far greater opinion of the readings of his symphonies as conducted by Andrew Davis.

Now, there's a turn-up for the books ::)

Anyway...if you want to compare and contrast, I shall, within the next 24 hours, upload four BBC broadcasts of Simpson symphonies to Unsung Composers: the 2nd conducted by the Braga Santos expert Alvaro Cassuto, the 4th in the first performance of the revised version, conducted by Davis, the 5th in its "blistering, white-hot premiere" conducted by Davis(1973), and the 6th in its premiere conducted by Charles Groves(1980).

Now these recordings are from mono tapes so the sound cannot compare with Hyperion stereo but, if you are more interested in performance than sound quality.............. ;D

(I shall also upload John Carewe's 1977 broadcast of Richard Arnell's 5th Symphony. David Wright has written that Martin Yates on Dutton "cannot hold a candle to Carewe" :o
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on November 18, 2011, 06:30:20 AM
Astonishing :o :o

One lives one's life with certain favourite composers and certain favourite works in recordings that are familiar, cherished and acclaimed............and then ::) ::)

I have just discovered-from an impeccable source(someone who knew Robert Simpson personally and very well)-that Simpson was extremely disappointed with some of the famous Vernon Handley readings of his symphonies as recorded for Hyperion: Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 8 in particular. They were under-rehearsed and, therefore, tentative :o

Simpson, apparently, had a far greater opinion of the readings of his symphonies as conducted by Andrew Davis.

Now, there's a turn-up for the books ::)

Anyway...if you want to compare and contrast, I shall, within the next 24 hours, upload four BBC broadcasts of Simpson symphonies to Unsung Composers: the 2nd conducted by the Braga Santos expert Alvaro Cassuto, the 4th in the first performance of the revised version, conducted by Davis, the 5th in its "blistering, white-hot premiere" conducted by Davis(1973), and the 6th in its premiere conducted by Charles Groves(1980).

Now these recordings are from mono tapes so the sound cannot compare with Hyperion stereo but, if you are more interested in performance than sound quality.............. ;D

(I shall also upload John Carewe's 1977 broadcast of Richard Arnell's 5th Symphony. David Wright has written that Martin Yates on Dutton "cannot hold a candle to Carewe" :o

So, the 6/7 disc  is the one to get?! ;) ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on November 18, 2011, 06:54:18 AM
Could be ;D

However......THE one to get imo is the 9th. An absolute masterpiece :) :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on November 18, 2011, 07:05:27 AM
The 6/7th, 9th and 11th/Nielsen discs were the stand-outs of the series for me.

I find 8 and (especially 10) surprisingly unengaging at this present time, not sure why.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on November 19, 2011, 05:40:31 AM
The 6/7th, 9th and 11th/Nielsen discs were the stand-outs of the series for me.

I find 8 and (especially 10) surprisingly unengaging at this present time, not sure why.

Could be ;D

However......THE one to get imo is the 9th. An absolute masterpiece :) :)

Ive been considering re-getting some of these, and 6/7 seems to be the one,... I'm less familiar with them as opposed to 9.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on November 19, 2011, 08:01:44 AM
6-7 do have a great yin/yang contrast when presented together on CD, a bit like Pettersson's 10th and 11th, I think you will enjoy it.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on November 20, 2011, 03:48:54 AM
I have just discovered-from an impeccable source(someone who knew Robert Simpson personally and very well)-that Simpson was extremely disappointed with some of the famous Vernon Handley readings of his symphonies as recorded for Hyperion: Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 8 in particular. They were under-rehearsed and, therefore, tentative :o

Interesting. While I enjoy the Handley recordings, I often get a feeling that they could be done differently and perhaps better. But with no other recordings and no access to the scores, I really can't tell.

Maybe the problem is the orchestra (RPO). The other ones, with Bournemouth especially, sound perfectly fine to me.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on January 28, 2012, 10:54:14 AM
Was introduced to Simpson's music today, when my teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, Matthew Taylor played me Handley's recording of Symphony no.7. Was left absolutely speechless. Absolutely amazing music, really incredible! I must listen to more of his music, so am planning to put the complete Simpson symphonies at the top of my birthday list! ;)
After we listened to it, I asked Matthew about his friendship with Robert, we discussed that for quite a while. Obvious how much of an influence Robert had on him. I can see him becoming a massive influence on me now too....
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on January 28, 2012, 12:03:39 PM
Was introduced to Simpson's music today, when my teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, Matthew Taylor played me Handley's recording of Symphony no.7. Was left absolutely speechless. Absolutely amazing music, really incredible! I must listen to more of his music, so am planning to put the complete Simpson symphonies at the top of my birthday list! ;)
After we listened to it, I asked Matthew about his friendship with Robert, we discussed that for quite a while. Obvious how much of an influence Robert had on him. I can see him becoming a massive influence on me now too....

Well done, Daniel :) :)

Simpson is one of my favourite composers ;D. I love the symphonies-particularly Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 9. Matthew Taylor was Simpson's own choice to conduct the recording of No.11 which is dedicated to Taylor. So you have a superb source of information about Simpson available to you ;D

Try listening to the slow movement of Symphony No.2 if you want to hear the most superb example of a musical pallindrome :)

Being really naughty ;D ;D you might ask Matthew Taylor to record Simpson's Cello and Flute Concertos :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on January 29, 2012, 05:28:48 AM
Well done, Daniel :) :)

Simpson is one of my favourite composers ;D. I love the symphonies-particularly Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 9. Matthew Taylor was Simpson's own choice to conduct the recording of No.11 which is dedicated to Taylor. So you have a superb source of information about Simpson available to you ;D

Try listening to the slow movement of Symphony No.2 if you want to hear the most superb example of a musical pallindrome :)

Being really naughty ;D ;D you might ask Matthew Taylor to record Simpson's Cello and Flute Concertos :)

That's great! I can imagine Simpson becoming a favourite composer of mine too! I seemed to instantly connect with the 7th symphony which Matthew played me. Was absolutely incredible. Looking forward to listening to the rest of the symphonies now, the box set is at the top of my birthday list! :)
Yes, I am very lucky to have Matthew as my teacher. He is a great man, and has an amazing knowledge. We talk about so much music. Including quite a lot of Mahler as well! :D It was only yesterday that we really started talking about and listening to Simpson though, despite several short mentions in the past. I'll try and sneak your request into a conversation with Matthew then ;)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Klaatu on January 29, 2012, 07:42:29 AM
Thanks, folks, for starting this discussion. I haven't listened to my Simpson CDs for a very long time and this has persuaded  me to go back to them.

As others have pointed out, Simpson was an amateur astronomer (serious enough to be elected FRAS) and this was acknowledged by Hyperion via the cover art of their recordings of his music.

I remember one of his symphonies (was it the 5th?) being described by a critic as "embodying the progressive acceleration associated with the contraction of a giant star" or some such comment. Certainly the work in question (5th?) reminded me of nothing so much as a disc of matter being sucked into the vortex of a black hole (and wasn't one of his brass band works called "Vortex"?)

Another recollection - outside classical, my favourite musical genres are blues and heavy metal. And one of my favourite heavy metal songs is the awesome Rebellion In Dreamland by the German band Gamma Ray. When I first heard this, it reminded me of Robert Simpson! Nothing to do with the sound of the music, but the acceleration (from Lento to Allegro to Presto to Prestissimo - or something like that!) How's that for a really odd link with Simpson?

Those members who have suggested that Simpson's work is almost devoid of humanity are, I think, right on the money - to me his music is the sound of the universe itself; its stars being born in gaseous stellar nurseries, flaring into life, then collapsing via a titanic supernova into a matter-eating black hole. It's the sound of the universe exploding into existence, flinging itself apart, and sputtering into a cold, empty heat-death where "the last of the stars has gone out" (to quote Olaf Stapledon!)

In fact, the man who might sum up the effect of Simpson's music could be Richard Dawkins when he wrote:

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(Yikes - this is deep stuff for me!) :o
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 05, 2012, 09:47:21 PM
Hi everyone

I've recently been enthusing over at the Havergal Brian thread and I thought I'd come and enthuse here.

(BTW, I can't find any influence of Brian on Simpson or vice versa, they are as two different composers as you could find living in the same country a generation and half apart. Simpson's music is all constructed and planned (marvellously so), Brian's is more broken, disrupted, though still (miraculously) unified).

Anyway I have all the Hyperion disks of Simpson's music and listen to them regularly, usually I listen to the symphonies one after another, then ditto the string quartets then ditto the chamber and keyboard works and brass music. It's all great stuff but my two favourite works of his are the 8th and 10th Symphonies; the 10th is just beyond sublime, it's like the Hammerklavier Sonata as a Symphony (I'm sure that's the model). The 8th is very different, it grows organically starting in the world of Nielsen symphonies* and moving on to the later C20. I can't express how inevitable, and yet unexpected, the development of the music is.

*I think Simpson was haunted by the opening of the Nielsen 6th Symphony and the fact that that Symphony could never recapture the innocence of its beginning. Its influence occurs in the 2nd and 3rd symphonies and is almost obsessive in the first movement of the 4th. Does anyone know when Simpson came to his new understanding of the Nielsen Sixth that he wrote about in the 2nd edition of Carl Nielsen Symphonist? It is almost as if in his musical works of the 60s and early 70s he was working out the Nielsen Sixth symphonically in parallel with the music analyst's understanding he was also pursuing. In the 8th Symphony Simpson writes another Nielsen 6 beginning, but the rest of his Symphony follows his new understanding (innocence can't be recaptured and stern reality has to be faced).

I think we're pretty well supplied with recordings, though perhaps we could do with another set of symphonies from a different label. He could also do with recordings of the late Cello and Flute Concertos.

Does anyone know why Simpson withdrew his Violin Concerto? Apparently it was played quite a bit in the 1960s? (And perhaps I should take this over to the Nielsen thread, but why is Nielsen Violin Concerto so awful compared to his other orchestral works and his two concertos?)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on February 05, 2012, 10:18:22 PM
I think we're pretty well supplied with recordings, though perhaps we could do with another set of symphonies from a different label.

Great post, thanks. Regarding the part I quote - I would settle just for a single new recording of a symphony of his - perhaps coupled with something sufficiently contrasting/intriguing. Unfortunately, even this looks unlikely to happen.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on February 05, 2012, 10:56:17 PM
Always like to hear dark horse favorites!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on February 06, 2012, 10:07:17 AM

I think we're pretty well supplied with recordings, though perhaps we could do with another set of symphonies from a different label. He could also do with recordings of the late Cello and Flute Concertos.


I agree, great post! Thank you!

I think Simpson deserves many more recordings. Isn't it just Hyperion that have taken up his music? A massive thank you and much praise for them for doing that. I'm surprised a label such as Naxos, who often produce many discs of less known composers (some far far less worthy than Simpson, and composers like Novak and Bortkiewicz who I have been pestering them to consider!) has not released any Simpson. I might sneakily ask Matthew whether there are any new recordings planned...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 06, 2012, 02:12:20 PM
Just one other thing I forgot to mention in my previous. As others have said there isn't much influence of English music on Simpson, his major influences are (pretty obviously) Beethoven, Sibelius, Nielsen &c. However occasionally his music does verge on the pastoral, sometimes it's the Danish pastoral of Nielsen (the passages influenced by the opening of the Nielsen 6th I mentioned earlier, but also some more straightforward pastoral of the Fynsk Foraar (spelling?) variety).

But in a few places he does approach the English pastoral eg String Quartet 1 ending, String Quintet ending, a few passages in the Symphony No.9 opening 'chorale prelude' passage, Symphony No. 8 opening movement, String Quintet No.2, Violin Sonata. None of these are extensive stretches and sternness usually supervenes, but I always find them them quite moving.

A few years ago when we still had a specialist classical CD shop in Canberra I was waiting to pay with a Robert Simpson CD in my hand. The next person in the queue commented on this and we discussed Simpson, I then showed him my other CD, music by Finzi, and I said "I don't think Simpson would have thought much of Finzi" and we l laughed, but I like to think Simpson had a little bit of a regard for English pastoral.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on February 06, 2012, 04:25:23 PM
I've enjoyed revisiting Simpson.  He seems to combine the massive narrative of the Bruckner symphony with the cool, cerebral detachment of Webern.  Very cool music. :o
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 07, 2012, 06:08:46 AM
I agree, great post! Thank you!

I think Simpson deserves many more recordings. Isn't it just Hyperion that have taken up his music? A massive thank you and much praise for them for doing that. I'm surprised a label such as Naxos, who often produce many discs of less known composers (some far far less worthy than Simpson, and composers like Novak and Bortkiewicz who I have been pestering them to consider!) has not released any Simpson. I might sneakily ask Matthew whether there are any new recordings planned...

This is an important point :) The Hyperion/Handley recordings of the symphonies were a major undertaking and brought the granitic grandeur and long-breathed power of Simpson to the attention of a wider public but they were not and are not necessarily the definitive last statements on the symphonies.

As I remarked earlier on this thread Simpson himself was actually dissatisfied with some of the readings. This needs to be said-despite the hagiography which Handley seems to have attracted over the last decade or so. Matthew Taylor himself(Daniel's teacher at the RAM) was given the task of conducting Symphony No.11 and it might be worth an enterprising record company considering whether or not he is up to conducting the cello and flute concertos. The absence of these works, together with a modern recording of the piano concerto, from disc is a scandal >:(

At a time when so much early 20th century British music-some of it outstanding but some of it not-is being recorded Simpson deserves better ::)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on February 07, 2012, 10:45:51 AM
This is an important point :) The Hyperion/Handley recordings of the symphonies were a major undertaking and brought the granitic grandeur and long-breathed power of Simpson to the attention of a wider public but they were not and are not necessarily the definitive last statements on the symphonies.

As I remarked earlier on this thread Simpson himself was actually dissatisfied with some of the readings. This needs to be said-despite the hagiography which Handley seems to have attracted over the last decade or so. Matthew Taylor himself(Daniel's teacher at the RAM) was given the task of conducting Symphony No.11 and it might be worth an enterprising record company considering whether or not he is up to conducting the cello and flute concertos. The absence of these works, together with a modern recording of the piano concerto, from disc is a scandal >:(

At a time when so much early 20th century British music-some of it outstanding but some of it not-is being recorded Simpson deserves better ::)

:) I'll ask Matthew whether he has plans on recording, or performing any more Simpson anytime soon. Won't see him again until later in the month though, it is half term now. I would certainly be very keen to hear the concerti you mention. At the moment, I only know a few of the symphonies.
Last week, Matthew told me a story about how he had gone to supervise a performance of Simpson's 4th symphony with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Handley. Handley fell ill at the last movement and handed the score to Matthew and said, 'you know the piece, please take over from me'. With barely any rehearsal time at all, Matthew had to conduct a concert performance of the 4th symphony, having never conducted that symphony before! For those of you who remember the scherzo movement, you can only imagine how terrified he must have been!

What a great piece it would be to see live anyway. Not only does Simpson deserve more recordings, but also live performances. I cannot remember the last time I saw a piece of Simpson programmed. I will have to change that - if my ambition of being a successful conductor becomes reality! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on February 07, 2012, 01:58:16 PM
I've enjoyed revisiting Simpson.  He seems to combine the massive narrative of the Bruckner symphony with the cool, cerebral detachment of Webern.  Very cool music. :o


And very coolly encapsulated.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 07, 2012, 05:39:06 PM
Yes, Daniel...that story from Matthew Taylor does not surprise me :(

Vernon Handley suffered from rotten ill health towards the end of his life and, unfortunately, was forced repeatedly to cancel concert engagements, often at very short notice.
I have heard from the former Managing Director of a British radio orchestra that it became so much of a problem that he simply stopped booking Handley altogether for broadcast concerts :(
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 09, 2012, 01:41:06 PM
Hey guys

I hadn't realised that recordings from Radio 3 of the Cello, Flute and Violin Concertos are available via the link provided on unsung composers

http://www.unsungcomposers.com/forum/index.php/topic,1895.msg22542.html#msg22542

Login required.

I've listened to all 3. The Flute Concerto is seriously good, and surprisingly long for a flute concerto. A serious fast first movement, beautiful slow second movement with a magical ending. Good recording too from Radio 3 in 1992 (first performance).

The Cello Concerto I didn't get at first listening. The recording isn't so good and the music sounded a bit unSimpsonish, but I will listen again, obviously.

The Violin Concerto is from 1959 and sounds more like a concerto for violin, orchestra (3 miles away) and hiss (in the concert room). Obviously I'm not blaming the person who provided the recording, just saying it's almost impossible to listen to.

This is a work that was written between the 1st and 2nd Symphonies (?) and was withdrawn by Simpson. It's a long work (43 mins) in three movements (fast, slow, fast). It seemed to me to a bit loose and Romantic for Simpson. Perhaps Simpson felt he'd fallen victim to the curse of the Violin Concerto (as Nielsen did, his VC isn't a patch on his flute and Clarinet concs). I'm sure a modern recording would show it to have good features.

Anyway, more recordings to listen to!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 10, 2012, 07:36:44 AM
I agree that the recording of the Violin Concerto is very poor but I didn't think the Cello Concerto was too bad. (These are not my recordings btw ;D).

However, since, as you say, the composer withdrew the violin concerto I think it very unlikely that it will be recorded so this is our only chance to get any idea at all of what it sounds like :(


Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 10, 2012, 04:26:06 PM
"However, since, as you say, the composer withdrew the violin concerto I think it very unlikely that it will be recorded so this is our only chance to get any idea at all of what it sounds like."

If Simpson stays a niche interest composer then I think you're right. If he becomes more popular, and especially as time goes by, we might ignore his wishes. After all we usually now play the earliest versions of the Bruckner symphonies, not his last revisions (and Simpson recommended this (except for 4 and 8 of course)). Also, the Simpson Violin Concerto sounds like a concerto with big tunes and Romantic swing to it so a violin virtuoso might take it up (stranger things have happened).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: eyeresist on February 12, 2012, 03:59:39 PM
After all we usually now play the earliest versions of the Bruckner symphonies, not his last revisions

Is this really true??
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on February 12, 2012, 04:53:07 PM
Quote from: eyeresist on Today at 00:59:39 (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php?topic=6863.msg600918#msg600918)
Is this really true??


It _is_ true in the case of Symphony No. 1, where the earlier 'Linz' version is usually played, and not the later 'Vienna'. Symphonies 5, 6, 7 and 9 are unproblematic. With 2, 3, 4 and 8 a later, revised version is performed as a rule. But I don't claim to be a Bruckner scholar!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 12, 2012, 08:13:21 PM
When I said "we play" I mean, we play on our CD players (I never go to concerts). I read Simpson's 1st edition of The Essence of Bruckner ages ago and when I bought recordings I only bought ones that using the earliest versions, as per his advice. In a few cases his advice changed in 2nd edition. Only in the case of the 4th and 8th symphonies are revisions better in this (Simpson) view.

I do sin against the gospel of Simpson in that I listen to the Mazzuca completion of the finale of the 9th.

 :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: eyeresist on February 12, 2012, 08:42:31 PM
I read an interesting essay which argued that the case against the revisions is actually quite weak, but of course when I want to refer to it, it's nowhere to be found.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on February 13, 2012, 05:35:06 AM
The best thing I ever read about the versions is - consider everyone of them as a perfectly valid and distinctive creation. There are, for example, a few passages in the first version of the Third that Bruckner discarded, which I don't want to be without.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on February 13, 2012, 08:40:20 AM
The best thing I ever read about the versions is - consider everyone of them as a perfectly valid and distinctive creation. There are, for example, a few passages in the first version of the Third that Bruckner discarded, which I don't want to be without.

I think that the third stands alone (bar perhaps the first, but I don't care for it yet) in the original version being just as worthy as the revised ones. With, say, the fourth and eighth, the revisions did empirically tighten up the argument, and smooth over some of the awkward parts - their original versions do have much of interest, but lack the ability to really carry me away like the early versions of the third manage to.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 13, 2012, 08:49:20 AM
Talk about derailing a thread :o :o
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on February 13, 2012, 09:04:10 AM
Simpson is so bad ass I'm going to have to buy a new album each week. :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on February 13, 2012, 09:05:10 AM
Woot! I am glad you're liking him - have you tried the chamber music yet? People tend to find it more austere, and I agree, but that's more to do with the medium than any stylistic change. I can't stop listening to his 9th quartet ;__;
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on February 13, 2012, 09:06:29 AM
I listened to his clarinet quintet and some sqs a few years back, but didn't like 'em as much.  Maybe I'll try 'em again some day.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Klaatu on February 13, 2012, 10:13:39 AM
Quote
Simpson is so bad ass I'm going to have to buy a new album each week.

Yo, my man! Simpson sure is one bad ass dude; wrote some real bitchin' music; glad yo' diggin' his s**t, bro'.  Wicked! 8) 8) 8)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 13, 2012, 11:27:24 AM
Yo, my man! Simpson sure is one bad ass dude; wrote some real bitchin' music; glad yo' diggin' his s**t, bro'.  Wicked! 8) 8) 8)

EEK ::) :o ::)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Klaatu on February 13, 2012, 02:21:00 PM

Quote
Yo, my man! Simpson sure is one bad ass dude; wrote some real bitchin' music; glad yo' diggin' his s**t, bro'.  Wicked!   

EEK   
Er, yes.....so sorry......DavidW's comment inadvertently triggered my "gangsta" alter ego. But I've taken the tablets and I'm fine now!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on February 13, 2012, 03:52:40 PM
Robert Simpson brings out the gangster in all of us! :D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: springrite on February 13, 2012, 04:54:24 PM
He seems more Wutang than Shaolin for me. Love the Haydn Variation Quartet more than anything, and dig the symphonies as well. Kimi still thinks he is boring (compared to Beethoven and Boulez, two of her favorites), but she is 3, so what does she know.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on February 14, 2012, 02:39:59 AM
Kimi still thinks he is boring (compared to Beethoven and Boulez, two of her favorites), but she is 3, so what does she know.

Out of the mouth of babes...  8)

I tend to agree with her. I love Simpson's symphonies; the quartets haven't inspired a similar feeling.


Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on February 14, 2012, 08:33:08 AM
Yo, my man! Simpson sure is one bad ass dude; wrote some real bitchin' music; glad yo' diggin' his s**t, bro'.  Wicked! 8) 8) 8)
That reminds me to put on my balaclava & take some of those rap cds down to the charity shop. I'm sure they'll be very pleased,until they see the warning stickers! :o
Don't ask me how I got them,please! :o  :(
James Brown was much nicer! :)

I MUST invest in some more Simpson. I wrote a very enthusiastic to him once,not knowing he'd had a particularly horrible & debilitating stroke. His wife replied. A very nice letter. I was so pleased! Most thoughtful.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 14, 2012, 02:07:35 PM
"He seems more Wutang than Shaolin for me. "

As someone with an interest in Chinese martial arts, I thought that comment was particularly apt.

Shaolin is taken in China to be the external martial art par excellence, Wutang the range of internal martial arts. External martial arts concentrate on mental and physical toughness, internal on mental and physical toughness produced by exercises that coordinate the body and the energy flows through it. Both sorts are pretty effective martial arts (you end up dead if you fight with practitioners of either) but the internal ones have more health benefits in addition.

If you apply the analogy to music, however, the external would be Romantic or modernist music that relies on musical rhetoric and bravado, and, in my view, is unsatisfactory because of this. Internal would be the sort of music that Simpson represents preeminently, supremely cordinated throughout and full of musical energy. Fa jing!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on February 25, 2012, 03:00:17 PM
Matthew played me the 8th symphony today at the academy. What a great work! Although I cannot love it as much as the 4th symphony, or strangely the 7th symphony, I was still amazed with it and stillf feel a strong connection with Simpson's music. Many great moments, a lot of rather scary music as well! I look forward to hearing more Simpson! :D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 25, 2012, 03:20:43 PM
Matthew played me the 8th symphony today at the academy. What a great work! Although I cannot love it as much as the 4th symphony, or strangely the 7th symphony, I was still amazed with it and stillf feel a strong connection with Simpson's music. Many great moments, a lot of rather scary music as well! I look forward to hearing more Simpson! :D

Facebook ;D ;D ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on February 25, 2012, 03:24:52 PM
Facebook ;D ;D ;D

Thank you, Colin! I have just recieved the links now! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 25, 2012, 03:30:30 PM
Well..I shall just repeat(hopefully with no spelling mistakes ;D ;D) what I said there-

"A great composer in full and total command of symphonic structure producing a masterpiece of cosmic grandeur and shattering power!!! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on February 26, 2012, 02:25:47 AM
Matthew played me the 8th symphony today at the academy. What a great work! Although I cannot love it as much as the 4th symphony, or strangely the 7th symphony, I was still amazed with it and stillf feel a strong connection with Simpson's music. Many great moments, a lot of rather scary music as well!

Yeah, it is scary (or to use David's word, "badass").

The scherzo (marked "menacing") and the ice-cold slow movement that follows are the highlights.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 27, 2012, 11:51:37 AM
Since being alerted to its existence last week on this thread I have been searching for a copy of the 1996 CD with the Simpson Piano Concerto on it... fruitlessly.

Could some kind person who has it post an Mp3 of the Simpson? I'm sure this would be legal, as we would all buy the disk instantly if it was reissued ;D

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 27, 2012, 05:15:03 PM
Since being alerted to its existence last week on this thread I have been searching for a copy of the 1996 CD with the Simpson Piano Concerto on it... fruitlessly.

Could some kind person who has it post an Mp3 of the Simpson? I'm sure this would be legal, as we would all buy the disk instantly if it was reissued ;D

Shhhhh ::) ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 27, 2012, 09:49:12 PM
I would like to thank Dundonnell, but his inbox is full!

Anyway, much appreciated. :-X
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on February 28, 2012, 04:33:46 AM

"A great composer in full and total command of symphonic structure producing a masterpiece of cosmic grandeur and shattering power!!! :)

Colin, which symphony are you referring to?

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on February 28, 2012, 04:49:51 AM
Colin, which symphony are you referring to?

Sarge
Indeed,which one? I just saw this post! You're keeping us in suspense!!! ::)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: springrite on February 28, 2012, 05:52:48 AM
Indeed,which one? I just saw this post! You're keeping us in suspense!!! ::)

The recently discovered #12?  :o
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 28, 2012, 06:03:01 AM
I would like to thank Dundonnell, but his inbox is full!

Anyway, much appreciated. :-X

I think that I have deleted enough messages from my inbox now to allow access ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 28, 2012, 06:03:32 AM
Colin, which symphony are you referring to?

Sarge

The Ninth ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on February 28, 2012, 06:09:27 AM
The Ninth ;D

Thank you. I've spent the afternoon listening to Simpson: 2, 4, and now 11. It's been awhile since I last heard 9. Perhaps I'll spin that next.

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 28, 2012, 06:39:13 AM
Thank you. I've spent the afternoon listening to Simpson: 2, 4, and now 11. It's been awhile since I last heard 9. Perhaps I'll spin that next.

Sarge

I listen often to the Simpson 2nd. I absolutely adore the slow movement whose palindromic structure reminds me of the famous quote in relation to Simpson:

"Many composers have no idea how to compose forwards, let alone backwards"
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on February 28, 2012, 06:49:07 AM
I listen often to the Simpson 2nd. I absolutely adore the slow movement whose palindromic structure reminds me of the famous quote in relation to Simpson:

"Many composers have no idea how to compose forwards, let alone backwards"

 ;D :D ;D

The Second is probably my favorite. His most "Classical" in feeling.

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on February 28, 2012, 07:06:04 AM
The Ninth ;D
Thought so (now,Dundonell's told us! ???) But,even,with my limited knowledge of Simpson's symphonies,it HAD to be THAT one! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 28, 2012, 07:56:16 AM
Thought so (now,Dundonell's told us! ???) But,even,with my limited knowledge of Simpson's symphonies,it HAD to be THAT one! :)

The Ninth is Simpson's most Brucknerian symphony....not in any sort of religious sense (which is why I shy away from the description of "cathedrals in sound" regarding Simpson) but in that implacable certainty that the work progresses towards a destination which is structurally in sight from the very first bar. The complete mastery of symphonic structure, in the Beethovenian sense, and the cosmic grandeur. It is both a terrifying work and a work which more than any other convinces me that Simpson was a master of both his material and the symphonic form.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on February 28, 2012, 03:59:07 PM
I am going to listen to the Second again.  :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 28, 2012, 05:13:15 PM
I am going to listen to the Second again.  :)

Report back please :D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on February 28, 2012, 05:55:36 PM
;D :D ;D

The Second is probably my favorite. His most "Classical" in feeling.

Sarge

Not the 9th or the 8th? :'(
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on February 29, 2012, 02:09:56 AM
Not the 9th or the 8th? :'(

I like 8 (but I have to be in the proper mood for it). 4 is wonderful, and I enjoy 3 & 11 too. I've had trouble responding positively to 9 but, inspired by Colin's advocacy, I'm going to give it another go soon. I'm still learning 7.

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on February 29, 2012, 02:47:46 AM
The only symphony I haven't heard is #10. What's the consensus on it?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 29, 2012, 05:14:26 AM
The only symphony I haven't heard is #10. What's the consensus on it?

Consensus ???  On here ???  An unlikely prospect ;D

I find the Tenth Symphony one of the tougher nuts to crack. It is a work which requires a definite commtment from the listener to sit and listen very carefully. It does not give up its secrets easily.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on February 29, 2012, 07:26:58 AM
I found the 10th to have a feeling of "what do I do next?" after the 9th, before the composer found his solution in No.11. It's a very typical symphony for the composer, but book-ended by two such unique works perhaps it suffers in comparison. Nos.8-10 form a group of a kind, in my mind, but I've yet to map out entirely how this works (2/4, 3/5 and 6/7 I also feel a kind of kindredness amongst, not sure why at all yet ???).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on February 29, 2012, 08:48:32 AM
(2/4, 3/5 and 6/7 I also feel a kind of kindredness amongst, not sure why at all yet ???).

Probably because that's the way they're coupled on the recordings  :D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on February 29, 2012, 09:39:40 AM
Probably because that's the way they're coupled on the recordings  :D

Woah. My subconscious is a very strange thing indeed - I remembered that 6 and 7 were coupled (and despite that "influence", feel that they compliment each other better than any of the others) but didn't remember that the others were ??? 3 and 5 is a bit of a stretch, but 2 and 4, c'mon! Bed buddies for life :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 29, 2012, 03:02:44 PM
I've often wondered if Simpson himself was as cold and unfeeling, - indeed inhuman, as so much of his music.  I suppose in some reversal of the haughty and aloof Delius writing music of such self-surpassing tenderness and sensitivity, the heartless sterility of Simpson's 9th Symphony (for example) might mask an individual of gregarious instinct and wide sympathies.  Does anyone have insights in this regard?

I was writing about Havergal Brian on that thread and pointed out how truly objective his music. Although they are very different composers, Simpson also has this objectivity in his music which can make it appear cold and unfeeling to some people. Personally I feel it's a great privilege to have this music, and it's certainly a better music than that which wallows in emotion.

As to the 10th, as soon as I heard it it became one of my favourite Simpson symphonies. As I said before, the Hammerklavier sonata as a symphony, wonderful.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on February 29, 2012, 04:20:20 PM
Simpson is all process and development, very organic. Brian's music is also very 'natural', but full of emotion too, presented objectively. He is not 'confessional' in the way Mahler is.


I simplify, of course, but still...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on February 29, 2012, 08:15:24 PM
Some people think in the bath. I think whilst driving (which I know is probably not advisable ;D). During a 90 mile car journey this evening I listened to Simpson's 2nd, 4th and 10th symphonies and tried to determine in my own mind why I admire the composer and his music so much. I also pondered on the question of the relationship between Simpson and Havergal Brian.

To take the second point first: Simpson admired Brian's music intensely and did his utmost over many years as a BBC Music producer to promote Brian. HB sent many of his symphonies to Simpson for comment soon after their composition. Simpson dedicated his Third Symphony to Brian and there can be little doubt that the latter regarded the younger man as a composer of great talent and musical ability. On the other hand, Brian died in November 1972 and therefore did not live to hear any of Simpson's later music (from Symphony No.4 onwards). But what about the obverse of the relationship? How much, if at all, did Brian influence Simpson's music?  I really don't know and am still searching for an answer.

Simpson's nine symphonies are, in my judgment, a towering achievement, amongst the most important and significant symphonic cycles of any British composer of the post Vaughan Williams, post Bax generations. But why?

Simpson seems to me to be the most Scandinavian of British symphonists, not least, of course, because of his huge admiration for and expert knowledge of the music of Carl Nielsen. There is frequently a quite terrifying grimness about Simpson's symphonies. They contain some of the angriest music I know and some of the grandest, most imposing, most formidable climaxes in music, greater I think at times than anything I know in Havergal Brian's music. There are passages in the Second and Fourth symphonies-the most recent in my listening experience-where the snarling, rasping brass fanfares cut through the orchestral sound with a ferocity which raises the hairs on my neck. The timpani shatter the firmament of sound like an artillery barrage across a battlefield. Using relatively modest orchestral resources-the Second Symphony, after all, is scored for the same size of orchestra as used by Beethoven in his early symphonies-Simpson can make a classical orchestra sound enormous in the volume of sound actually created.
The slow movement of the 2nd Symphony contains-to my ears-amongst the most thunderously, shatteringly terrifying passages in all music and yet achieved with only double woodwind, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings.

Simpson's quieter, more peaceful, tranquil music has a beauty which is quite distinctive. The beauty is that of a classical purity. If the sun shines then it seems to glisten on a crystalline, icy surface. There is an absence of warmth. Indeed 'warmth' seems to be absent-I do not use the word 'missing'-from Simpson's music. This is not music which, like that of British composers such as  Arnold or Arnell, wears emotion on its sleeve, or, like Rubbra, is based on a modal religious spirituality.

The music is based on a precise and extremely carefully and expertly built symphonic structure. Thus the parallels with Beethovenian classicism. That makes it music which may well, for many people, make it difficult to 'love'. I would not like to claim that Simpson's music is easy to listen to. In a sense it is very difficult music because it demands a ferocious degree of concentration if one is to appreciate the structural precision.

I am the most amateur of musical amateurs. I claim no deep knowledge of musical processes. Yet Simpson's music, more than any other I know, demands of me the concentrated effort to try to appreciate what exactly Simpson is doing and trying to achieve. It is no accident that the other symphonist who makes similar demands of my listening is the Dane Vagn Holmboe.

Critics accuse Simpson of being a composer of enormous technical facility, of having tremendous intellectual capacity, but of lacking the ability to inject into the impeccable logic of his composition any real element of surprise or an emotional imagination to bring real life to his music.I can understand that criticism. Is there the same or even a comparable fascination of fresh discovery which fires enthusiasts for the music of Havergal Brian? Possibly not. Is Simpson's music possessed of an essential memorability which would qualify it as 'great music'? I am not sure. And yet............when I listen to the Fourth Symphony or the Ninth I hear a master craftsman at work, composing music of such adamantine brilliance and clarity and of such overwhelming power that I am quite swept away. The music may be without some intrinsic emotional core yet it is more than capable of producing an extremely powerful emotional reaction. And when I listen to the Fourth Symphony I am struck by the soaring self-confidence of a master craftsman in the art of symphonic development and orchestration. This is music of such driven power that I am awe-struck in admiration. And for those who argue that Simpson has no capacity to surprise: the extraordinary scherzo of the Fourth Symphony is indeed, as Matthew Taylor, wrote a quite astonishing tour de force. The quite amazing alternation of the quote from Haydn's Symphony No.76 with the ferocious rasping brass and hammering timpani and percussion is not the creation of a composer without imagination ;D

(Anyway and however...it is now very late at night and my own thought-processes are probably becoming dimmed by tiredness ;D)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on February 29, 2012, 11:59:19 PM
I appreciate your musings, Colin. There is no doubt in my mind that Simpson is a master, both of the orchestra and of symphonic logic. He's a frighteningly 'bright' composer, and you can hear his intellect in everything he writes. To appreciate, yes, even love his music, you must approach it dispassionately and with total concentration. If you do that, Simpson can offer you an aesthetic enjoyment that is quite unlike any other composer. That his musical universe seems to partake of both the cosmos and a laboratory is only a weakness when you're not susceptible to its particular charms. I admire Simpson's music enormously and his cycle of symphonies, for me too, stand as one of the greatest achievements in 20th century symphonism. The fact that I don't love Simpson as much as I do Brian is because in Brian you get the frail but tenacious human figure, too, etched against the cosmos. This gives you a means to feel and measure the world Brian's music explores.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 01, 2012, 12:27:23 AM
Always interesting - Malcolm MacDonald about Robert Simpson:


http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Mar04/Simpson_Macdonald.htm (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Mar04/Simpson_Macdonald.htm)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: UB on March 01, 2012, 05:52:06 AM
Always interesting - Malcolm MacDonald about Robert Simpson:


http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Mar04/Simpson_Macdonald.htm (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Mar04/Simpson_Macdonald.htm)

Thank for the link...I had forgotten about this very informative article about Simpson. I am one of those who loves his symphonies - especially 9 - but think his soul is in his string quartets.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 02, 2012, 04:18:38 PM
Worth-reading review of the Hyperion cd of the Ninth :

http://www.gramophone.net/Issue/Page/December%201988/88/852927/ (http://www.gramophone.net/Issue/Page/December%201988/88/852927/)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on March 03, 2012, 09:46:00 AM
Thank you for the post which included your thoughts on Simpson, Colin. A really fascinating, enjoyable read. I agreed with your opinions, and cannot believe that some critics believe Simpson lacks the ability to surprise! The scherzo of the 4th symphony gave me one of the most incredible musical surprises of my life!

Today, at the academy, Matthew played me Simpson's 9th symphony. I was absolutely amazed by it. Such a powerful, beautiful piece. I was speechless after that heavenly final chord died away... amazing piece.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 03, 2012, 10:47:20 AM
The scherzo of the 4th symphony gave me one of the most incredible musical surprises of my life!

Coincidentally, I just got finished listening to the 4th Symphony. That scherzo is awesome, one of the greatest ever written. It also struck me how rarely it happens that a scherzo is the "heaviest" movement in a symphony. The only other example I can think of right now is Mahler's 5th.

I was also struck again at how innovative the symphony is within its classical format. Not just the weird trio with that snippet of Haydn under bombardment, but also the way the scherzo is developed with various material (including from that trio) on its reprise, and how the finale is basically a hyperactive variation on the material from the first movement. And then that coda just blows the roof off. What an awesome piece.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on March 03, 2012, 10:59:08 AM
Coincidentally, I just got finished listening to the 4th Symphony. That scherzo is awesome, one of the greatest ever written. It also struck me how rarely it happens that a scherzo is the "heaviest" movement in a symphony. The only other example I can think of right now is Mahler's 5th.

I was also struck again at how innovative the symphony is within its classical format. Not just the weird trio with that snippet of Haydn under bombardment, but also the way the scherzo is developed with various material (including from that trio) on its reprise, and how the finale is basically a hyperactive variation on the material from the first movement. And then that coda just blows the roof off. What an awesome piece.

Interesting point about Mahler 5 - I would actually view that as the least 'heavy' of the movements... ;)

But anyway, in agreement with everything you say about Simpson 4. It certainly is an awesome piece. And I don't use that word that often! ;)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 03, 2012, 03:53:54 PM
I asked Malcolm MacDonald, who knew Simpson well, to comment on my lengthy post above and, in particular, about the issue of emotion and warmth in Simpson's music.
Malcolm confirmed that Simpson was extremely wary of demonstrating in music the emotion which he in reality felt and that 'warmth' was frequently turned into the 'heat' of his louder
music.

Most fascinating however was Malcolm's information that the reason Simpson revised the glorious slow movement of the Fourth Symphony and changed the time signature from Adagio to Andante was because he thought that at the slower speed the movement tended to 'wallow' in the very emotion he was so wary of. I heard the first performance of the 4th and indeed (once :() had it on tape. I must admit that I preferred the movement at the slower speed. At the time of his death Simpson was, apparently, working on the possibility of restoring the movement to its original tempo. How interesting it would be if Matthew Taylor was to complete this work and we were to hear the symphony again as Simpson originally intended it :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on March 04, 2012, 04:36:25 AM
How interesting it would be if Matthew Taylor was to complete this work and we were to hear the symphony again as Simpson originally intended it :)

I'll try and sneak in that suggestion into one of our conversations. ;)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 04, 2012, 06:30:35 AM
I'll try and sneak in that suggestion into one of our conversations. ;)

 ;D :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 04, 2012, 06:56:33 AM
I asked Malcolm MacDonald, who knew Simpson well, to comment on my lengthy post above and, in particular, about the issue of emotion and warmth in Simpson's music.
Malcolm confirmed that Simpson was extremely wary of demonstrating in music the emotion which he in reality felt and that 'warmth' was frequently turned into the 'heat' of his louder
music.

It is fascinating to hear of a composer suppressing emotion in music rather than fostering it. I think he was right to do so; it gives his music an "edge". Cool and powerful, like a skyscraper or a mountain range.

Quote
At the time of his death Simpson was, apparently, working on the possibility of restoring the movement to its original tempo. How interesting it would be if Matthew Taylor was to complete this work and we were to hear the symphony again as Simpson originally intended it :)

Why would anyone have to "complete" it? Does the original score no longer exist?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 04, 2012, 07:42:04 AM
The information about this comes from 'Leading Notes' the journal published by The Robert Simpson Society. In 1998 the writer and critic Stephen Johnson wrote that at his death Simpson was working on "a possible revision/restoration of the slow movement". So he may have been contemplating something further than simply restoring the original time signature. Obviously others will know more about this ;D

Simpson was also working on a Symphony No.12 for chorus and orchestra. Given that he wrote almost nothing which included voices this would have been a remarkable addition to his canon.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 04, 2012, 09:07:35 AM
It is interesting to read that he was starting to compose again when he died. A 12th symphony would have been a major effort, obviously. I had thought that the effects of his stroke (which partially paralyzed him and stuck him with a more or less permanent headache, according to a source I read) would have made large-scale composition impossible.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 04, 2012, 02:14:28 PM
I remember reading this quote from RS: "If words are good enough to set, they don't need music".

This is pretty much my feeling about vocal music too ;)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J on March 05, 2012, 11:08:59 AM
I remember reading this quote from RS: "If words are good enough to set, they don't need music".

This is pretty much my feeling about vocal music too ;)

Given that music likely originated in song or "the setting of words" this lame idea of Simpson is consistent
with the sterile and alienated character of his compositions.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 05, 2012, 01:28:43 PM
"Given that music likely originated in song or "the setting of words" this lame idea of Simpson is consistent
with the sterile and alienated character of his compositions."

That's one theory, the other is that it arose from dance music. Take your pick.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lisztianwagner on March 05, 2012, 01:38:55 PM
I listened to some of Simpson's symphonies, plus the Violin Concerto, and I was quite impressed by their huge beauty and brilliance, absolutely stunning music! It's very expressive and dynamic, very powerful, but at the same time, also logical and well-structured.
He certainly became one of my favourite contemporary composers. :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 05, 2012, 08:16:44 PM
Good for you, Ilaria ;D

It is certainly refreshing to hear something like that. Positive comment, unlike "sterile and alienated" :(
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on March 05, 2012, 09:21:03 PM
Good for you, Ilaria ;D

It is certainly refreshing to hear something like that. Positive comment, unlike "sterile and alienated" :(

Is it morning already over there? You're up early?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lisztianwagner on March 06, 2012, 04:25:10 AM
Good for you, Ilaria ;D

It is certainly refreshing to hear something like that. Positive comment, unlike "sterile and alienated" :(

Thank you, Colin :)

I can't believe such a beautiful, powerfully emotional music like Simpson's one was described in that way.....sterile, alienated....not at all!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 06, 2012, 05:26:43 AM
Is it morning already over there? You're up early?

No.....I go to bed very late ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J on March 06, 2012, 11:02:52 AM
Thank you, Colin :)

I can't believe such a beautiful, powerfully emotional music like Simpson's one was described in that way.....sterile, alienated....not at all!

As I suggested once in another forum, for me a Simpson Symphony is like an enormous and brilliantly constructed architectural shell, - but with no life going on inside that one can participate in and respond to.  Walk around a bit and be impressed by the meticulous logic and precision of its engineering, or stand back and feel awe over the spectacle of its scale and grandeur.   But take a position at its center with the whole of oneself open to its force and impact, and prepare to have all your human sensibilities crushed rather than called to, - the weight and hardness and coldness of steel bearing down.  I've used a cosmic analogy (i.e. the architecture of the heavens) with different metaphors to describe my experience on occasion, but the communicated effect is similar.  Simpson's music appeals strongly to "isolated intellect" and "dissociated emotion".  That's what I mean when I call it sterile and alienated. 

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on March 06, 2012, 11:07:22 AM
I wouldn't agree. In my opinion, there are many heart-breakingly beautiful moments in Simpson that have almost reduced me to tears. Very emotional music. And so far I have only heard the 4th, 7th-9th symphonies! :)

I find your view and the way you express it interesting though.

I listened to some of Simpson's symphonies, plus the Violin Concerto, and I was quite impressed by their huge beauty and brilliance, absolutely stunning music! It's very expressive and dynamic, very powerful, but at the same time, also logical and well-structured.
He certainly became one of my favourite contemporary composers. :)

I too am really glad to hear that you are enjoying Simpson, Ilaria! I am too! :D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 06, 2012, 11:12:32 AM
As I suggested once in another forum, for me a Simpson Symphony is like an enormous and brilliantly contructed architectural shell, - [interesting response snipped]

I see where you're coming from, and it's an interesting take, as Mad says. I actually find the impersonality and icy grandeur of the music attractive rather than repulsive. Occasionally one needs a break from human concerns.

I do think the 4th Symphony, at least, is a partial exception: more humor and "fun" in that piece than we usually get from this composer.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lisztianwagner on March 06, 2012, 12:08:25 PM
As I suggested once in another forum, for me a Simpson Symphony is like an enormous and brilliantly contructed architectural shell, - but with no life going on inside that one can participate in and respond to.  Walk around a bit and be impressed by the meticulous logic and precision of its engineering, or stand back and feel awe over the spectacle of its scale and grandeur.   But take a position at its center with the whole of oneself open to its force and impact, and prepare to have all your human sensibilities crushed rather than called to, - the weight and hardness and coldness of steel bearing down.  I've used a cosmic analogy (i.e. the architecture of the heavens) with different metaphors to describe my experience on occasion, but the communicated effect is similar.  Simpson's music appeals strongly to "isolated intellect" and "dissociated emotion".  That's what I mean when I call it sterile and alienated.

I certainly understand your point of view, even if I wouldn't agree with it; on the basis of what I listened, I think Simpson's music is quite emotional and thrilling.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 06, 2012, 06:58:20 PM
I think part of the problem for people complaining about Simpson’s ‘empty’ or ‘emotionless’, or ‘cold’ music is that they don’t understand the musical language of the C20. For some reason I can’t fathom, most people’s ideas of musical language seem stuck in around 1880. Once you realise that composers don’t write this way any more, and music has been changing for another 140 years, then you can get a better idea of what composers are ‘saying’ and you can distinguish ‘empty’ ones properly. (For example, I have always thought Benjamin Britten was a quite ‘empty’ and ‘heartless’ composer).

Recently I did an experiment on my beloved spouse (musical tastes: country and western, rock, meditation music), Son #1 (not interested in music at all), Son #2 (musical tastes: grunge and heavy metal). I played them Simpson’s String Quartet No.10 and asked them what they thought it meant: they came up with ‘pain’, ‘agony’, ‘despair’, and by this stage I was pulling my hair out and saying ‘No, no. this is wonderful, heartfelt music, this is the music of the spheres, this is pure (non-religious) beatificity, this is calm certainty, this is the music that you listen to and at the end of it realise that there is everything still to do, but this is the reason why you will do it.’

I think I have some musical education to do at home.

The other problem with people not knowing the language of C20 music is that they fail to discriminate in pre-C20 because it all sounds mellifluous, so it must be OK? In fact just as in the C20 plenty of composers wrote ugly, soulless music, so did composers in the C19. If you don’t know the language, you can’t tell which C19 composers are duds either.

While we’re talking Simpson chamber works, though, what about the String Quintet No.1? This is one of my favourite Simpson works, and one which I’m sure that even people not attuned to C20 music can appreciate. If you listen to it without knowing who wrote it, as Simpson encouraged listeners to do in one of his own Radio 3 shows, you might even think it was written by an English composer of the pastoral school, the next generation after (Simpson did study under Herbert Howells).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 06, 2012, 10:23:12 PM
I think part of the problem for people complaining about Simpson’s ‘empty’ or ‘emotionless’, or ‘cold’ music is that they don’t understand the musical language of the C20. For some reason I can’t fathom, most people’s ideas of musical language seem stuck in around 1880. Once you realise that composers don’t write this way any more, and music has been changing for another 140 years, then you can get a better idea of what composers are ‘saying’ and you can distinguish ‘empty’ ones properly. (For example, I have always thought Benjamin Britten was a quite ‘empty’ and ‘heartless’ composer).

A related issue IMHO is that Simpson used the old forms (symphony and string quartet) - he was possibly the most literally-minded neo-classicist in regard to form - but he uses this rather harsh and astringent language. Therefore people who expect a symphony or quartet to sound a certain way (like Beethoven or Brahms or whoever) might be put off by the harsh style.

In this way, Simpson is similar to Hindemith. I've heard the same charges leveled at both composers.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J on March 07, 2012, 08:58:17 AM
In my opinion, there are many heart-breakingly beautiful moments in Simpson that have almost reduced me to tears. Very emotional music.

You do realize, I assume, that Simpson would have been horrified by such a confession had he known. :o
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on March 07, 2012, 10:49:22 AM
You do realize, I assume, that Simpson would have been horrified by such a confession had he known. :o

Why do you think that Simpson was so against emotion in music?!

Does anyone else agree with me that a lot of Simpson contains some really beautiful, haunting, emotional music?!

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lisztianwagner on March 07, 2012, 10:58:52 AM
Why do you think that Simpson was so against emotion in music?!

Does anyone else agree with me that a lot of Simpson contains some really beautiful, haunting, emotional music?!

I agree with you, Daniel; Simpson's music can certainly be powerfully emotional, thrilling and full of beauty. It definitely touches me when I listen to it.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on March 07, 2012, 11:20:48 AM
I agree with you, Daniel; Simpson's music can certainly be powerfully emotional, thrilling and full of beauty. It definitely touches me when I listen to it.

I am glad that you agree with me, Ilaria! Simpson's music really touches me too.

Obviously it is meant to be 'intellectually' challenging, but emotionally too I think. Really beautiful to whoever enjoys it! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J on March 07, 2012, 11:47:12 AM
I asked Malcolm MacDonald, who knew Simpson well, to comment on my lengthy post above and, in particular, about the issue of emotion and warmth in Simpson's music.
Malcolm confirmed that Simpson was extremely wary of demonstrating in music the emotion which he in reality felt and that 'warmth' was frequently turned into the 'heat' of his louder
music.

Why do you think that Simpson was so against emotion in music
 

If not against, apparently he was quite "wary" of it (see Colin's reference to Malcolm MacDonald on this topic above)  and almost certainly not something he strove after.  But more meaningful would be discriminating the "kind" of emotion one might experience in Simpson's music.  I would contend it is almost entirely dis-passionate emotion (not a criticism), - or even dissociated.  But this needs elaboration, and in any case might be entirely projection on my part, if not sophistry.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J on March 07, 2012, 12:17:15 PM
In my opinion, there are many heart-breakingly beautiful moments in Simpson that have almost reduced me to tears. Very emotional music. And so far I have only heard the 4th, 7th-9th symphonies! :)

Could you reference some/any of these "heart-breakingly beautiful moments" in Symphonies 4, 7, and/or 9
where you experience them (i.e. time intervals when you feel them coming on, peaking, and then dissapating,
- all, of, course, within the context of the whole), - or is this too calculating a request in regards to such a spontaneous happening?

I've never come anywhere close to crying while listening to a Simpson Symphony, and can't even imagine such a phenomenon, - though I don't doubt your words (or only a little).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 07, 2012, 12:48:23 PM
I very much hope that Malcolm MacDonald does not mind me quoting exactly what he wrote about this aspect of Simpson's music in his private communication with me:

"Emotion certainly isn't absent from the music, but he seems to have had a horror of being accused of (or lapsing into) sentimentalism. The 'warmth' is there, though often converted into the 'heat' of his fast and angry movements, but he seems to have preferred that otherwise it should seep out from the tissue of the music, not at any particular spot but overall, to be appreciated by those with ears to hear. It's surely significant that he withdrew the original version of the slow movement of Symphony No. 4 - a more overtly warm and emotional piece than its replacement. In either version, No. 4 is certainly among my favourites of the symphonies".
[/b

The difference Malcolm sees in Simpson's perception would be between 'emotionalism' and 'sentimentalism'.

The other difference-it seems to me-is between the emotional content or context(if any) which the composer perceived in his music and an emotional reaction to that music in, at least certain, of his listeners. If one is 'affected' in some way by the music, whether its compositional structure, which may be an intellectual response or an intellectual/emotional response, or an aesthetic reaction to the sounds one is hearing (which is, largely, my own experience) then does it ultimately matter what the composer intended ??? If the listeners who find beauty (or terrifying and imposing grandeur) in the music respond in that fashion then I have no problem or issue with that.

.......and if Simpson would have been horrified by such an 'emotional reaction' then tough ;D

(Sorry the only bit of this post that is supposed to be in bold is Malcolm's quote but I don't know how to "unbold" text :-[)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: madaboutmahler on March 07, 2012, 02:29:07 PM
Could you reference some/any of these "heart-breakingly beautiful moments" in Symphonies 4, 7, and/or 9
where you experience them (i.e. time intervals when you feel them coming on, peaking, and then dissapating,
- all, of, course, within the context of the whole), - or is this too calculating a request in regards to such a spontaneous happening?

I've never come anywhere close to crying while listening to a Simpson Symphony, and can't even imagine such a phenomenon, - though I don't doubt your words (or only a little).

Well, first of all I'd like to make it clear that I have only heard each of these works just once. I shall be listening to them all again soon when I own the symphony box set, which I shall be getting this Saturday for my birthday (I hope! ;) )

Moments that I remember being particularly beautiful include: the slow movement from the 4th, which is extremely lyrical and I remember it having a particularly expressive cello solo at the beggining. The whole symphony is beautiful to me as it is so incredibly haunting, the final bars of the symphony with the unison note in violins left me speechless and with a sense of despair. In the 9th, a particular moment not long after the end of the scherzo after that massive buildup was extremely powerful and the theme (I think in the oboe) that followed was highly melodic and poetic.

Sorry, these are not too detailed or precise, but these are just my memories of my initial thoughts on hearing the symphonies for the first time. I shall report back with more detail once I have given them another play through.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 07, 2012, 04:18:54 PM
Re RS and his views on 'sentmentalism', I remember being very struck when I saw a BBC TV program about Deryck Cooke and his performing version of Mahler's 10th (this was around 1989). Amidst all the people interviewed who were 100% of the view that the symphony was a masterpiece, RS appeared and said he thought the flute melody in the last movement was an example of 'sentimentality'.

I also read more recently his view of parts of the second movement of Mahler's 8th being 'hundreds of bars of shameless schmalz' (or words to that effect). I think I'd tend to agree more with this opinion. :D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 12, 2012, 05:24:15 AM
Slightly to my surprise (since I've known the work for years but hadn't paid much attention until now), I've become hooked on the 3rd String Quartet, specifically the second of its 2 movements. What grabs me is not just the usual structural rigor I expect from this composer, but also a wild "Central European" sound in parts, like something out of Bartok or Janacek. Maybe I'm hallucinating, but I don't think I'd noticed this before; it sounds unusual for Simpson.

While we're on the subject, what are people's favorites among the quartets? The 9th has been mentioned, and I already like 3 and 6, but I'd like to get some feedback on the others.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on March 12, 2012, 06:41:17 PM
I think part of the problem for people complaining about Simpson’s ‘empty’ or ‘emotionless’, or ‘cold’ music is that they don’t understand the musical language of the C20. For some reason I can’t fathom, most people’s ideas of musical language seem stuck in around 1880. Once you realise that composers don’t write this way any more, and music has been changing for another 140 years, then you can get a better idea of what composers are ‘saying’ and you can distinguish ‘empty’ ones properly. (For example, I have always thought Benjamin Britten was a quite ‘empty’ and ‘heartless’ composer).

Recently I did an experiment on my beloved spouse (musical tastes: country and western, rock, meditation music), Son #1 (not interested in music at all), Son #2 (musical tastes: grunge and heavy metal). I played them Simpson’s String Quartet No.10 and asked them what they thought it meant: they came up with ‘pain’, ‘agony’, ‘despair’, and by this stage I was pulling my hair out and saying ‘No, no. this is wonderful, heartfelt music, this is the music of the spheres, this is pure (non-religious) beatificity, this is calm certainty, this is the music that you listen to and at the end of it realise that there is everything still to do, but this is the reason why you will do it.’

I think I have some musical education to do at home.

The other problem with people not knowing the language of C20 music is that they fail to discriminate in pre-C20 because it all sounds mellifluous, so it must be OK? In fact just as in the C20 plenty of composers wrote ugly, soulless music, so did composers in the C19. If you don’t know the language, you can’t tell which C19 composers are duds either.

While we’re talking Simpson chamber works, though, what about the String Quintet No.1? This is one of my favourite Simpson works, and one which I’m sure that even people not attuned to C20 music can appreciate. If you listen to it without knowing who wrote it, as Simpson encouraged listeners to do in one of his own Radio 3 shows, you might even think it was written by an English composer of the pastoral school, the next generation after (Simpson did study under Herbert Howells).

Perhaps SQ 10 was the wrong choice? Why didn't you play them Sym 9? I can to RS looking for the Penguin Guide Holy Grail, and, surely, Sym 9 delivered the goods,... but I specifically remember the disc with SQs 10-11. Isn't 10 called 'For Peace', or something? Well, when i first heard it in my ignorance, I can tell you there was nothing peaceful in all the cd, no matter what PG had said!! >:D The PG caused me to rabbit-hole the entire Simpson catalog looking for that elusive second hit (never got to Syms 10-11). I was especially crushed by the String Quartets.

Always, always be wary of letting 'earth people' listen to 'our' music. If you think it's beautiful, they'll think it's creepy; if you think it's peaceful, they'll think it's despairing; if you hear the cosmos, they hear hell. I'm tellin' ya, if you like the way your music makes YOU feel, don't ruin that special intimate relationship by 'throwing pearls to the swine' (not callin yer family... ;D). It's just the way it is. Everyone needs to come to RS by their OWN way. It's like making someone read the Bible,... the unintended consequences can be more than you bargained for. I can only imagine that your 'weird' factor with your family just went up, haha,.. perhaps they're talking about you in the other room, "Dad thinks THAT was good? He's so old, haha!!" Just ribbin' ya.

Frankly, there is some Xenakis (Emprientes, Echange) which does an equally good job at illuminating the cosmos.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on March 12, 2012, 06:42:09 PM
As I suggested once in another forum, for me a Simpson Symphony is like an enormous and brilliantly constructed architectural shell, - but with no life going on inside that one can participate in and respond to.  Walk around a bit and be impressed by the meticulous logic and precision of its engineering, or stand back and feel awe over the spectacle of its scale and grandeur.   But take a position at its center with the whole of oneself open to its force and impact, and prepare to have all your human sensibilities crushed rather than called to, - the weight and hardness and coldness of steel bearing down.  I've used a cosmic analogy (i.e. the architecture of the heavens) with different metaphors to describe my experience on occasion, but the communicated effect is similar.  Simpson's music appeals strongly to "isolated intellect" and "dissociated emotion".  That's what I mean when I call it sterile and alienated.

Exactly!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 13, 2012, 01:49:34 AM
I was especially crushed by the String Quartets.

Oh, that sounds horrible.  :'(  Maybe you should sue the Simpson estate for damages. What was it that crushed you?

Quote
Always, always be wary of letting 'earth people' listen to 'our' music. If you think it's beautiful, they'll think it's creepy; if you think it's peaceful, they'll think it's despairing; if you hear the cosmos, they hear hell.

Yeah, but sometimes you get some interesting responses. 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on March 13, 2012, 06:22:12 AM
Oh, that sounds horrible.  :'(  Maybe you should sue the Simpson estate for damages. What was it that crushed you?

Yeah, but sometimes you get some interesting responses.

The Penguin Guide's frothing, grail-like prostration in front of RS's SQs is what tricked me. I found all his SQs (minus the Haydn, which I must surely get one day!) to be... unfriendly. :(


And yes, one does get some interesting responses sometimes... 'words of babes'.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: springrite on March 13, 2012, 06:27:59 AM
I like his Haydn and the #1 the best so far. But I need to listen more attentively to his other quartets in the coming months, probably using headphones at airport.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 13, 2012, 02:43:16 PM
Re: String Quartets

10 is my absolute favourite, I love 1-3, also 13, 15 and 9, of course). But they're all good.

Love both the String Quintets, the first String Quintet may be my favourite Simpson full stop.

As you why I played the family the SQ 10, it was simply because of the discussion that preceded it, I've also played them the 9th Symphony and other works.

(Recently I got into trouble because I was playing one of the David Matthews Symphonies very loudly and our three cats, previously sleeping peacefully, were observed running away  :D).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 13, 2012, 05:27:28 PM
I have it on the very best authority ;D ;D that Raphael Wallfisch, who commissioned and premiered the Simpson Cello Concerto, is very anxious to record the work.

All ::) that is needed is a record company prepared to undertake such a recording.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image on March 13, 2012, 05:29:11 PM
I have it on the very best authority ;D ;D that Raphael Wallfisch, who commissioned and premiered the Simpson Cello Concerto, is very anxious to record the work.

All ::) that is needed is a record company prepared to undertake such a recording.

Why doesn't Hyperion record it? Since they released the symphonies and SQs, it is only logical.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 13, 2012, 06:57:54 PM
Re recording of Cello Concerto,

The difficulty might be that they have to find the right work or works to couple it with, they might think that a C20 cello concerto by a composer without a wide following is a risky venture and they might think they need to couple it with a better known piece to sell it.

From the point of view of a Simpsonophile the ideal recording would be the Cello Concerto coupled with the Flute and Piano Concertos (77 minutes total, would fit on one CD).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image on March 13, 2012, 07:17:00 PM
Re recording of Cello Concerto,

The difficulty might be that they have to find the right work or works to couple it with, they might think that a C20 cello concerto by a composer without a wide following is a risky venture and they might think they need to couple it with a better known piece to sell it.

From the point of view of a Simpsonophile the ideal recording would be the Cello Concerto coupled with the Flute and Piano Concertos (77 minutes total, would fit on one CD).

This hasn't stopped Hyperion before. They released all of the symphony recordings and then they reissued them all in a box set. Hyperion makes plenty of money from their other recordings, they can afford to release a CD of Simpson's concerti.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on March 13, 2012, 08:38:12 PM
I wish that I knew why Hyperion did not fulfill their commitment to add the concertos after the releaseof the symphonies. I suspect that the death of Ted Perry, the founder of the company and a fan of Simpson's music, and the uncertain market may have affected the decision. Simon Perry, Ted's son, may not be so keen ???

A coupling of the Cello, Flute and Piano Concertos might make perfect sense to us but I suspect it might be considered commercially too risky ::)

I am restrained in what it would be appropriate for me to say publicly ;D There MAY be companies who just MIGHT be interested in recording the cello concerto, perhaps coupled with another cello concerto..........BUT there is a huge gap between "interest" and action. And that gap is quite simply- as ever- money. I might be able to play the concerto (hypothetically, of course :)), I may want to record it but I have to persuade a record company to put up the cost of, not just paying me, but paying an orchestra and a conductor, hiring a recording venue etc etc. And, at a time of financial difficulties, I have to persuade the company's accountants that there will not be a substantial loss.

There's the rub............. :(
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Lethevich on March 14, 2012, 07:50:58 AM
Re recording of Cello Concerto,

The difficulty might be that they have to find the right work or works to couple it with, they might think that a C20 cello concerto by a composer without a wide following is a risky venture and they might think they need to couple it with a better known piece to sell it.

If it's not Hyperion who records it, I would be pretty happy with it being coupled by a new recording of one of his symphonies (which are already proven quantities) - especially in light of Simpson himself believing that the Hyperion recordings could be improved upon.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 25, 2012, 08:21:55 AM
Alex Ross (of The Rest Is Noise) writes about Simpson and a bit about Brian. "I will have a bit more to say about Simpson in The New Yorker soon", he announces:


http://www.therestisnoise.com/2012/03/simpson-in-america.html (http://www.therestisnoise.com/2012/03/simpson-in-america.html)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 25, 2012, 12:41:20 PM
Does anyone know if anyone is writing a biography of Simpson, I'd love to read a good biography of him.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 25, 2012, 11:12:56 PM
Alex Ross (of The Rest Is Noise) writes about Simpson

Nice to see he's getting some mainstream attention.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on May 19, 2012, 06:43:55 PM
Dundonnell has pointed out here that Simpson originally wrote the slow movement of the 4th as an adagio, then changed the tempo to andante, because he felt that... I don't know, the adagio was too long and out of place?

Anyway, I know the 4th quite well, but yesterday I listened to the slow movement on its own. What a beautiful piece, but now, like Dundonnell, I want to hear the adagio version because I think that as an andante it is bit overshadowed by the fast music of the other three movements. Here's a thought, there is a recording from the BBC of Andrew Davies conducting the 4th on Unsung Composers. Can't someone who is very clever with audio software take out the slow movement from this recording and slow it down to adagio (say 75% speed) without altering the pitch, then we could all listen and decide!

ps I have downloaded both the Andrew Davies recordings on UC (4th and 5th) to compare with the Hyperion's Handley recordings. Simpson is said to have disliked these as 'tentative', and preferred Davies recordings. Well if Handley's 5th is tentative I'm not sure I can survive listening to Davies version, they'll find me dead with blood running out of my ears.... Anyway, if I survive I'll report back.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on May 20, 2012, 01:14:59 PM
It's OK, I survived. The Davies' 5th is an average quality off-the-radio recording from the 1970s. I actually prefer it to the Handley, not because the former sounds tentative to me and Davies is less tentative, but because Davies seems to make much more of the two canone movements (2 & 4 out of 5). It seemed like I was hearing them for the first time, if you know what I mean.

On to the Davies' 4th today!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on May 20, 2012, 04:35:42 PM
Ok, just listened to Davis' (apologies for calling him Davies earlier) Simpson 4 (undated) from the BBC.

The quality is worse than his BBC No.5 broadcast from 1978, so I'm thinking it might be earlier. In which case might he be playing the first version with the Adagio slow movement? His 3rd movement is about 13' as opposed to Handley's 10' 30" on Hyperion, which is about how long that movement should last if it's adagio not andante.

Anyway, I preferred this recording to Handley's in nearly every way, the first movement was both more playful (in the playful bits), and scary (in the scary bits), the scherzo was more grounded, less manic, but more titanic in its energy and more impressive, the slow movement (regardless of whether it is the andante or adagio version) is slower, and more measured, and the finale is more exultant. In Handley's recording Simpson use of side-drum and piccolo and high fifth harmonics is sometimes made to sound shrill and unbalanced, this recording is much better in that regard (side-drum less foregrounded).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: eyeresist on May 20, 2012, 05:38:25 PM
Dundonnell has pointed out here that Simpson originally wrote the slow movement of the 4th as an adagio, then changed the tempo to andante, because he felt that... I don't know, the adagio was too long and out of place?

Possibly Simpson was just spooked by a dragging performance, and felt he should ensure the movement was slow but not TOO slow.

Sounds like Andrew Davis is one to check out.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on June 24, 2012, 02:00:39 PM
Over on the Havergal Brian thread I was talking about how HB's 23rd symphony was a formal joke, it sounds to me like the two outer movements of a symphony, with no slow movement or scherzo (of the traditional four). I then mentioned Simpson's Quartet 12 as the exact opposite:

"Robert Simpson sq no 12 is a long slow movement followed by a long scherzo, it's a complete work of great power, but if you think of it as the middle two movements of a 4 movement sq, like Haydn's last, unfinished sq, the form gains more point. It's hard to imagine how huge and powerful this work would be with the full four movements--inhumanly huge, so these two will suffice."

(Quoting myself, very poor form). Anyway, all this is a prelude to saying I was listening to the Flute Concerto yesterday and I think this is another formal joke. What I hear happening is that the piece starts off quietly, but then things get scary and fast and violent (no surprises), then about a third of the way through the piece settles down to a slower, more peaceful movement and we start thinking "Ha, Simpson is writing a fast-slow-fast structure here" However, the slow movement just doesn't stop, it keeps and gets calmer and more beautiful and this persists right until the end, defeating our expectations.

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on June 24, 2012, 02:12:06 PM
[Without wanting to turn this into another HB thread, No. 22 is also in two movements, and so is No. 30...]
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on June 25, 2012, 02:03:42 PM
I'm having fun now going through all the Simpson recordings I have which aren't symphonies or string chamber works. I'm reminding myself what other marvellous works RS wrote. At the moment I'm treasuring the Cello Concerto. Now I'm listening to it on a device which gives me better quality from this recording off the radio I can appreciate it better. Unlike the Flute Concerto it doesn't achieve blissful serenity, but continues in a typical Simpson tough musical argument all the way to the end, but like other Simpson works from the very end of his career (11th Symphony &c) this struggle has become refined to a higher level so the amount of overt of striving is less, but you know it's still there.

The other discovery was the Piano Sonata form the very beginning of RSs published oeuvre. Another marvellous piece, on one level as good as anything he wrote subsequently. Oh, and the Horn Trio... but my enthusiasm must be getting a bit boring.

[Re: HB and his two movement symphonies. I know that various other of his symphonies are also in two movements, but these function as two movement symphonies... first movement, second movement. I just get the feeling from the 23rd that HB wrote it as first movement, [   ], [    ], last movement.  :)]
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on August 08, 2012, 03:10:53 PM
I was listening the other day to the 2 clarinet quintet (string trio, clarient and bass clarinet) (on the Hyperion disc with the SQ 14 and (single) Clarinet Quintet).

I don't about jazz, but parts of this work sound a bit jazz influenced to me. Can anyone comment?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on October 29, 2012, 01:37:07 PM
I've known Simpson's Quartets for a few years, and I have known the Beethoven quartets for longer, but it never occurred to me before to listen to the three Razumovsky Quartets alongside the Simpson quartets 4-6.

What a revelation, here you have six of mightiest quartets in the repertoire, and the second set was written explicitly as a musical commentary on the first. Where to start talking about them? of course Simpson and Beethoven's styles are like a hand and a glove, so the fast outer movements of the Simpson quartets match the tough argumentative style of the Beethoven outer movements, but Simpson rises to the challenge of writing slow movements to match the Beethoven ones. The first two are glorious and lyrical, even if subdued and tragic in places. In Simpson's sixth the second movement is a marvellous essay in disquiet and restlessness (again following the Beethoven lead). I have to say though, and this would have Simpson tut-tutting furiously, I think Simpson is the greater composer.

Then I topped this exercise off by listening to Beethoven's op 95 ('Serioso' Quartet) and the Simpson Quartet 11. Although this quartet was not written as a musical commentary on the op 95, and doesn't correspond to it structurally as 4-6 do to the respective Razumovsky Quartets, Simpson said he was influenced by it. And again, what an amazing coincidence of style and feeling in two composer separated by 170 years.

I recommend listening to these works this way.

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on October 29, 2012, 01:50:58 PM
Thanks! I am a great admirer of the Quartettto Serioso, so Simpson's (veiled) take on that sounds very enticing.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on October 29, 2012, 03:47:15 PM
Ok, just listened to Davis' (apologies for calling him Davies earlier) Simpson 4 (undated) from the BBC.

The quality is worse than his BBC No.5 broadcast from 1978, so I'm thinking it might be earlier. In which case might he be playing the first version with the Adagio slow movement? His 3rd movement is about 13' as opposed to Handley's 10' 30" on Hyperion, which is about how long that movement should last if it's adagio not andante.

Anyway, I preferred this recording to Handley's in nearly every way, the first movement was both more playful (in the playful bits), and scary (in the scary bits), the scherzo was more grounded, less manic, but more titanic in its energy and more impressive, the slow movement (regardless of whether it is the andante or adagio version) is slower, and more measured, and the finale is more exultant. In Handley's recording Simpson use of side-drum and piccolo and high fifth harmonics is sometimes made to sound shrill and unbalanced, this recording is much better in that regard (side-drum less foregrounded).

Writing as the person who made the recordings back in the 1970s with the somewhat primitive technology then available to him ;D ;D...........

I rue the day that I decided to delete my recording of the 1973 premiere of the Simpson 4th. It was, incidentally, the very first radio broadcast I ever taped and I bought a tape-recorder for the specific purpose of recording the Simpson :) That first performance was given by the Halle Orchestra under James Loughran.

For some reason lost in the mists of time I taped the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis performance over the Loughran :-[ Now when that performance was broadcast I cannot tell and we have not so far been able to find out. The recording of the 5th is definitely the premiere from 1973. Nor can I be sure when precisely Simpson quickened the slow movement from Adagio to Andante. However I have read that the change came "after the first few performances" so the Davis COULD be at Adagio speed ???

What I can be sure of is the reason. Malcolm MacDonald, who was a friend of Simpson's, told me that the composer was self-confessedly-and this, of course, is the familiar criticism of his music-an "intellectual composer" determined to make an appeal to the emotions ONLY through intellectual argument. Simpson felt that at Adagio the movement was too "straightforwardly emotional" in its impact.

I can understand why, for some people, this can leave an impression of sterility. I recall listening in amazement to that slow movement back in 1973 and thinking that it represented some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard and I still think that.

I also know that right at the end of his life Simpson was thinking seriously about restoring the movement at its original speed but that his work on that was unfinished. Matthew Taylor at the Royal Academy of Music in London is the ideal man (as a Simpson-pupil) to undertake such a revision/restoration ;D

Daniel.....you have my permission to ask him to do so ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on October 30, 2012, 07:10:46 AM
I've known Simpson's Quartets for a few years, and I have known the Beethoven quartets for longer, but it never occurred to me before to listen to the three Razumovsky Quartets alongside the Simpson quartets 4-6.

I've only heard Simpson's #6 (his "3rd Razumovsky"). Of the three quartets, which do you like the most? And which one most closely follows its Beethovenian model?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on October 30, 2012, 05:38:16 PM
I've only heard Simpson's #6 (his "3rd Razumovsky"). Of the three quartets, which do you like the most? And which one most closely follows its Beethovenian model?

OK, the first Razumovsky has fast outer movements (the finale with the Russian theme), a slow, funereal, slow movement and a scherzo. The Simpson 4 follows this closely, except for a funereal slow movement he has a more lyrical movement. In the finale he has a slow lyrical interlude before the end. In all these quartets he follows Beethoven's tonal plan, but expands the tonal conflict, so if Beethoven suggests a tonal conflict between the tonic and  a classically unconventional related key, like the mediant, Simpson expands this.

The second Razumovsky follows much the same plan, except its slow movement is a more exalted lyrical movement (the Russian theme is the trio section of the Scherzo). Simpson follows this plan closely, of the three Simpson Razumokskys this is probably the greatest for my money. (Simpson doesn't use Russian or folk themes, but in the scherzo here he uses a plain theme that gets tangled up in counterpoint, as Beethoven does with the Russian theme).

In the third Razumovsky I think Beethoven might have been getting a bit bored with the format of the previous two, so the slow movement is faster and more disturbed (and Russian-sounding). The scherzo is a minuet and trio. Here Simpson writes two outer movements that are similar to Beethoven's but writes a marvellous movement of restlessness and disquiet for the second (it might be called 'modernity and its discontents') and a canonic third movement that definitely isn't a minuet and trio!

So, to answer your question, 5 is the greatest OMHO and follows the original most closely.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on October 30, 2012, 06:41:21 PM
So, to answer your question, 5 is the greatest OMHO and follows the original most closely.

Thanks for the detailed response. For what it's worth, the Razumovskys are my favorite Beethoven quartets (I like them even more than the Lates) and probably for that reason, I liked Simpson's #6 right away. Must get hold of the first two installments!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on December 06, 2012, 11:08:15 PM
I've just been listening to the radio recording of the Violin Concerto. Previously I had only listened to it on my iPod, then I listened on my iPad and it sounded a little better, finally I found an app for the iPad called "Equ" that is a graphic equaliser program and this makes this recording much better. I feel I'm actually hearing the work now.

Now we know that Simpson in later life withdrew the work, but listening to the recording I regret this. I think it would be a valuable adjunct to other Simpson works if it was recorded and would show a different side to Simpson. It was written in 1959, i.e. after the first two symphonies and the first three string quartets. It's about 43 minutes long and contains the following four movements:

1. An introductory movement, about 10 minutes long, very dramatic, with dotted rhythms and shakes in the orchestra, the violin responding
2. An angry scherzo 5-6 minutes long
3. A beautiful slow movement about 15 minutes long, calm and peaceful but with a more dramatic central section where a solo cadenza leads to brass ejaculations, before a return to the opening music
4. A final rondo [sic], about 12 minutes, very lively and good humoured before a gruff but perhaps not serious dramatic ending.

It doesn't sound much like Simpson, it's much more lyrical and less chromatic (I have no idea what's going on tonally in the work). Each movement has its own material and there doesn't seem to be much cross referencing of material between the movements. My jaw dropped when I heard Simpson writing a rondo-finale, but it's all in the best high spirits.

I guess Simpson thought it wasn't serious enough, or he felt he had gone too far in the direction of popular classics  ;D, which is why he withdrew it. But I like, inasmuch as I can hear it, and I'm sure a good modern recording would meet with a good reception, especially amongst Simpsonites.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on December 28, 2012, 01:32:59 AM
Article on the Simpson String Quartets by Edward Green

http://www.chambermusicjournal.org/pdf/Vol21-no2.pdf
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on December 28, 2012, 02:45:39 AM
Many thanks! Fascinating read. My first resolution for 2013 - systematic exploration of RS.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Dundonnell on December 28, 2012, 10:42:10 AM
Many thanks! Fascinating read. My first resolution for 2013 - systematic exploration of RS.

And like all good resolutions made by JZH I am sure that it will be kept :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on December 28, 2012, 04:22:06 PM
Your belief is both commendable and gratifying.  :) 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on September 12, 2013, 05:00:46 PM
A few pages ago on this thread I asked whether anyone had written a biography of Simpson.

Well, I discovered that someone has

The Power of Robert Simpson by Donald Macauley (a family friend) is available from Google Books as an e-book for $10.

I've just finished reading through the main part (still have various appendices to read). I reckon it's well-worth downloading, it certainly has lots of information about Simpson I wasn't aware of before and background to his various compositions.

From it learnt of five compositions I wasn't aware of:

The Variations and Fugue for Recorder and String Quartet date from the 50s, the book mentioned an out of catalogue CD which has this work and I have ordered a copy from Amazon.

The remaining works are unrecorded (like the Flute and Cello Concertos):

Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano (1960s)
Sonata for 2 Pianos (1979)
Quintet for Brass (late 80s)
Variation and Fugue on a Theme of J S Bach for String Orchestra (1990)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: kyjo on September 12, 2013, 05:17:30 PM
A few pages ago on this thread I asked whether anyone had written a biography of Simpson.

Well, I discovered that someone has

The Power of Robert Simpson by Donald Macauley (a family friend) is available from Google Books as an e-book for $10.

I've just finished reading through the main part (still have various appendices to read). I reckon it's well-worth downloading, it certainly has lots of information about Simpson I wasn't aware of before and background to his various compositions.

From it learnt of five compositions I wasn't aware of:

The Variations and Fugue for Recorder and String Quartet date from the 50s, the book mentioned an out of catalogue CD which has this work and I have ordered a copy from Amazon.

The remaining works are unrecorded (like the Flute and Cello Concertos):

Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano (1960s)
Sonata for 2 Pianos (1979)
Quintet for Brass (late 80s)
Variation and Fugue on a Theme of J S Bach for String Orchestra (1990)

You might be pleased to know that Nimbus is releasing a disc including the Simpson CC coupled with the Joubert and Christopher Wright CCs. See the related thread at the Art-Music Forum: http://artmusic.smfforfree.com/index.php/topic,2861.0.html

Also, Simpson's PC badly needs a modern recording. John Ogdon's recording of it was released years ago on the Carlton Classics label, but that disc is now well out of print. :(
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on September 12, 2013, 06:15:29 PM
Cool.

Should just clarify that Donald Macauley was a family friend of Simpson, not of mine!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: lescamil on September 12, 2013, 07:19:16 PM
Also, Simpson's PC badly needs a modern recording. John Ogdon's recording of it was released years ago on the Carlton Classics label, but that disc is now well out of print. :(

Agreed, although I do like that old Ogdon recording! Hopefully some British pianist with a focus on British 20th century music can take it up. Perhaps Ashley Wass or Howard Shelley?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on September 27, 2013, 10:59:26 PM
Hey everyone

I have just posted a download of Simpson's Variations and Fugue for Recorder and String Quartet (1959)

A fine work

Enjoy!

http://artmusic.smfforfree.com/index.php/topic,506.msg14421.html#new
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on January 26, 2014, 01:59:53 AM
I see from Naxos's list of forthcoming concerts that the City of London Sinfonia are giving Simpson's Variations and Fugue on the Theme of Bach for String Orchestra (1991) on Jan 29 at St John's Smith Square, London, at 7.30pm.

If this is broadcast on BBC 3 either then on later PLEASE could someone record it and post it at the Art Music Forum or somewhere accessible, the Simpson is an unrecorded work and should be a ripper. The whole concert looks really good it also has "Allegro Deciso" by Simpson (no idea what this is), and Taylor's Adagio in Memoriam Robert Simpson, amongst other works.

Please Please Please
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on January 26, 2015, 07:49:41 AM
Wondering if I should reacquire 6-7... hmmm...

...off to YT...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image on January 26, 2015, 08:12:22 AM
Wondering if I should reacquire 6-7... hmmm...

...off to YT...

Why didn't you just buy the whole box set when it came out?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on January 26, 2015, 11:58:13 PM
Why didn't you just buy the whole box set when it came out?

If you are a devotee of a composer like Simpson you buy each symphony disk as it comes out paying full price. You don't wait 15 years in case they put out a half price box set.

 :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image on January 27, 2015, 07:39:03 AM
If you are a devotee of a composer like Simpson you buy each symphony disk as it comes out paying full price. You don't wait 15 years in case they put out a half price box set.

 :)

I guess I'm not a devotee then. ;) But I have only been seriously listening to classical music for six years.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on January 27, 2015, 08:36:30 AM
If you are a devotee of a composer like Simpson you buy each symphony disk as it comes out paying full price. You don't wait 15 years in case they put out a half price box set.

 :)

... and then you sell them all, and years later contemplate buying them all again... oy...

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Klaze on January 27, 2015, 02:07:32 PM
Talking about boxes, how about the string quartets...? I'm curious about them, but acquiring them all seems to be a costly affair... :-\
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on January 27, 2015, 05:48:23 PM
Talking about boxes, how about the string quartets...? I'm curious about them, but acquiring them all seems to be a costly affair... :-\

They are all mostly pretty tough nuts to crack. I'm just not really a fan here... always breaking the bounds of the medium,... I don't know, they were all a disappointment after the 9th Symphony,... I also have a hard time with Holmboe's SQs. I wanted something more "cosmic",... they're very thorny.

The 9th ("Haydn") would be the best place to start.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on January 27, 2015, 08:04:52 PM
Talking about boxes, how about the string quartets...? I'm curious about them, but acquiring them all seems to be a costly affair... :-\

I was disappointed with my first encounter with them (10, 11). Then I got the disc with nos. 3 and 6 and liked it a lot better. Since then I've gotten the famous "Haydn" quartet (#9), and the first "Razumovsky" (#4, coupled with #1). I like all of them a lot better than nos. 10-11. So a mixed big overall, but definitely some individual quartets worth seeking out.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Klaze on January 28, 2015, 11:05:08 AM
Thanks, will check out those first.

Ah yes, the Holmboe quartets, i have kept putting off buying that set as well, even tough I'm curious (for some reason they reside in the same corner of my brain as the Simpson's, even though I havent heard a note of either of the cycles).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on January 28, 2015, 09:27:17 PM
The Holmoe Quartets are wonderful, almost as good as the Simpson though perhaps a little less dissonant and forceful.

 :)

I guess I more or less grew up listening to the Simpson quartets (from the early 1990s when they began to emerge on disc), and they seem like the norm for C20 SQs, with everything else diverging from them, not them being divergent.

I can't see which quartets wouldn't immediately appeal to listeners, so my advice is plunge in anywhere, but expect profundity. This isn't decorative music.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Klaze on February 18, 2015, 12:56:27 PM
Wow, the first spin of the disc with SQs 1 and 4 and I'm really digging it !
Think I will start collecting more of this stuff.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: snyprrr on February 19, 2015, 09:56:03 AM
Wow, the first spin of the disc with SQs 1 and 4 and I'm really digging it !
Think I will start collecting more of this stuff.

Then stick with 1-6 for now.

7-8 are quite dense, so, then, go to the "best" one, No.9. Those four discs should keep you going for a while. The later SQs continue Simpson's confrontational style into ever more astringent territory, and I just didn't feel the need. 1-3 are early, and Neilsonesque, though, with much steel. 4-6 are maybe the best bet, along with 9. I had 10-11 which was NOT what I wanted at the time,... and the later ones,...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on February 20, 2015, 09:12:05 AM
Then stick with 1-6 for now.

7-8 are quite dense, so, then, go to the "best" one, No.9. Those four discs should keep you going for a while. The later SQs continue Simpson's confrontational style into ever more astringent territory, and I just didn't feel the need. 1-3 are early, and Neilsonesque, though, with much steel. 4-6 are maybe the best bet, along with 9. I had 10-11 which was NOT what I wanted at the time,... and the later ones,...

I think this is good advice. I started with 10/11, and was puzzled by my negative reaction, because I had liked the symphonies so much. I had much better luck with the earlier quartets.

No. 3 has a second mvt. which sounds oddly mid-European (like Bartok or Janacek), so go for it if you like that style.  4-6 are the "Razumovskys", so go for those if you like Beethoven. 9 is the famous palindromic Haydn one, so go for that if...you get the idea.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 08, 2015, 03:59:30 PM
I was listening to the Symphony No.11 just now after listening to lots of Holmboe. People have spoken about Simpson wanting to write a simpler symphony after 9 & 10 (hardly surprising) and have written of the influence of Sibelius 6, a great favourite of Simpson's). However, parts of 11 sound very like Holmboe to me, we know that Simpson thought very highly of his music, and I wonder if, in 1990-91 Simpson wasn't thinking of Holmboe, who, by that time was getting quite aged.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Scion7 on February 23, 2016, 04:02:22 PM
Giving the Piano Sonata a spin on this rainy Tuesday night.  This would be impressive to witness in-concert - busy fingers!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Androcles on August 21, 2016, 02:34:11 PM
I have been listening to a lot of Robert Simpson's music lately; in particular I have been working my way through the 15 string quartets and the two string quintets. I am extremely impressed with these pieces. Each one perhaps takes four or five hearings to really get into.

He is a difficult composer to assess. I started listening to the symphonies, and was intrigued. Some of them are more viscerally powerful than anything else I have every heard - the 5th and 8th. The 9th feels like an enormous cosmic structure that unfolds before the listener. There is plenty in these works that I feel drawn back to from time to time. On the other hand, most of them use the orchestra rather counterintuitively. Surely an orchestra with all its instruments is to be used to create sound that interest the ear, rather than simply present an argument as Simpson wants to do. To my ears, Simpson's scoring is usually brass/woodwind heavy. There is not much that is human in these symphonies, it is true.

However, the great exception to the rule is the Symphony No. 11, which contains chamber-like scoring in places, and gives us perhaps a calmer, more human musical expression (although still cogently argued and powerful). Here is a piece, like the late Flute Concerto, which ends with flute and string quartet with no conductor, that is rather more intimate, and deserves performance.

The quartets, however, are different to the symphonies. They play to Simpson's strengths, of cogent argument and linear progression, while revealing a more human side. I love the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th in particular. They contain the power of the symphonies (eg. 7th Quartet) without the jarring orchestration. There are far more moments of beauty (finale of 10th Quartet, slow variations in 9th Quartet). Basically - my question is - why are these quartets not being listened to? Is it because the genre is unpopular or the pieces are hard work, and that the composer doesn't particularly distinguish himself elsewhere? For my money these are up with the Bartok.

At the moment it looks like Simpson is about to depart from the catalogue and his music get forgotten, which would be a great shame. Even the symphonies that once drew some attention from lovers of British symphonies aren't being discussed, let alone performed.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Turner on September 03, 2017, 03:09:16 AM
.....

Also, Simpson's PC badly needs a modern recording. John Ogdon's recording of it was released years ago on the Carlton Classics label, but that disc is now well out of print. :(

Am considering putting that old CD of the Piano Concerto on my wish list ... I don´t see much about the piece in this thread; if anyone knows it, could you give a very short characterization? If it´s mainly neoclassical or divertimento-like, it might be of less importance to me ...

I am not very familiar with Simpson, own the Symphonies + Nielsen Variations box from Hyperion.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on September 03, 2017, 03:57:46 AM
Simpson is one of those composers, like Norgard or Blomdahl whose first symphonies I really like and whose later, and more highly regarded, music I fail to appreciate - and I have no doubt that it is my failure. I recently listened to Symphony 9 and will play it again soon.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Scion7 on September 03, 2017, 04:51:01 AM
Simpson is one of those composers, like Norgard or Blondahl whose first symphonies I really like and whose later, and more highly regarded, music I fail to appreciate - and I have no doubt that it is my failure.

Not necessarily - I consider his work inconsistent.  Some pieces I quite like - others, meh.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on September 03, 2017, 01:04:08 PM
To my ears, Simpson's scoring is usually brass/woodwind heavy.

On the other hand you could argue that classical, Romantic and C20 orchestral music is generally too string heavy.

 ;D

I love the way that Simpson lets the brass roar and dominate (aided by the woodwind). IN my opinion he and Havergal Brian liberated the brass and ww for the first time in orchestral music. And HB went further and liberated the tuned percussion too (especially in his later symphonies)

The orchestra and orchestral sound should be allowed to evolve over time, I wish more composers would use cool instruments that aren't often heard for new sonorities: flugelhorns, cornets, saxophones, alto flute, bass oboe, piccolo oboe, contrabass flute, basset horn &c
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on September 03, 2017, 10:55:45 PM
Not necessarily - I consider his work inconsistent.  Some pieces I quite like - others, meh.
Thanks - apologies for misspelling Blomdahl.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on September 03, 2017, 10:59:15 PM
Not necessarily - I consider his work inconsistent.  Some pieces I quite like - others, meh.
I like Simpson's Symphony 3 as well, especially in that famous old Horenstein recording.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: kyjo on September 15, 2017, 03:07:28 PM
I trudged through all of the Simpson symphonies a couple years ago, and, for the most part, they left me cold (I did, however, enjoy the earlier, accessible Nielsen Variations quite a bit). Recently, I decided to revisit a couple of them, and my reactions were more positive. I particularly found myself enjoying the epic Sixth - its first movement, which depicts the emergence of life from a fertilized cell, moves inevitably towards a shattering climax representing the moment of birth. The second movement is more relaxed, but builds excitingly to a memorable ending on a simple D major triad. I echo many of the sentiments towards Simpson's music have been voiced previously in this thread - I find it very impressively written, and often powerful and exciting, but too emotionally detached for me to truly love and connect with it. After all, he did excise the original slow movement of his Fourth Symphony because he found it "too emotional" (hopefully we'll get to hear it someday). Nevertheless, I recognize him as one of the great 20th century symphonists (even if he sometimes sounds like "Nielsen without the tunes", as Jeffrey so accurately put it earlier in the thread ;D) , and I shall persist in trying to appreciate his music more.

P.S. I wonder when we're gonna get a new recording of Simpson's Piano Concerto, which is supposedly one of his most accessible works. The only recording of it has long been out of print.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on September 15, 2017, 03:27:37 PM
I trudged through all of the Simpson symphonies a couple years ago, and, for the most part, they left me cold (I did, however, enjoy the earlier, accessible Nielsen Variations quite a bit). Recently, I decided to revisit a couple of them, and my reactions were more positive. I particularly found myself enjoying the epic Sixth - its first movement, which depicts the emergence of life from a fertilized cell, moves inevitably towards a shattering climax representing the moment of birth. The second movement is more relaxed, but builds excitingly to a memorable ending on a simple D major triad. I echo many of the sentiments towards Simpson's music have been voiced previously in this thread - I find it very impressively written, and often powerful and exciting, but too emotionally detached for me to truly love and connect with it. After all, he did excise the original slow movement of his Fourth Symphony because he found it "too emotional" (hopefully we'll get to hear it someday). Nevertheless, I recognize him as one of the great 20th century symphonists (even if he sometimes sounds like "Nielsen without the tunes", as Jeffrey so accurately put it earlier in the thread ;D) , and I shall persist in trying to appreciate his music more.

P.S. I wonder when we're gonna get a new recording of Simpson's Piano Concerto, which is supposedly one of his most accessible works. The only recording of it has long been out of print.

I haven't heard No. 6 but your description inspires me to put it on my playlist.  I too find Simpson hit or miss.  It isn't bad, it just doesn't compel me to listen further.  I do enjoy the Vernon Handley recording of Symphonies No. 3 and 5 but understand from a good source (Malcolm MacDonald) that Simpson loathed that series.  So perhaps my mixed feelings of his music are based on unidiomatic interpretations. 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on September 15, 2017, 04:27:10 PM
(I did, however, enjoy the earlier, accessible Nielsen Variations quite a bit)..... After all, he did excise the original slow movement of his Fourth Symphony because he found it "too emotional" (hopefully we'll get to hear it someday).

The Nielsen variations are from 1982, so around the time of the 8th Symphony. Simpson didn't excise the original slow movement of 4, the only thing he did was alter the tempo from Adagio to Andante. And you can hear the earlier version, there is a recording of a BBC broadcast of 4 before Simpson made his change at Albion's Archive https://www.mediafire.com/?yqrs5q7n92j17#39gklf97ua449 .
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on September 15, 2017, 04:34:26 PM
I do enjoy the Vernon Handley recording of Symphonies No. 3 and 5 but understand from a good source (Malcolm MacDonald) that Simpson loathed that series. 

I don't think he loathed them, he just thought Handley could have done better. One of his beefs was that conductors didn't rehearse modern music enough (and as a BBC producer he certainly had experience of this). This is understandable as modern music tends to be programmed alongside older music and people know what the older music is supposed to sound like so conductors rehearse this more because they will be judged on their interpretation of the more familiar stuff. When RS's 8th was premiered by the Royal Danish Orchestra under Semkow the conductor didn't rehearse the 8th at all, not a bar of it, so the first performance was effectively the first play-through*. You can see why Simpson felt aggrieved.

*Actually that performance stands up pretty well, all things considered, you can hear it on Youtube.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on September 16, 2017, 04:46:00 AM
I don't think he loathed them, he just thought Handley could have done better. One of his beefs was that conductors didn't rehearse modern music enough (and as a BBC producer he certainly had experience of this). This is understandable as modern music tends to be programmed alongside older music and people know what the older music is supposed to sound like so conductors rehearse this more because they will be judged on their interpretation of the more familiar stuff. When RS's 8th was premiered by the Royal Danish Orchestra under Semkow the conductor didn't rehearse the 8th at all, not a bar of it, so the first performance was effectively the first play-through*. You can see why Simpson felt aggrieved.

*Actually that performance stands up pretty well, all things considered, you can hear it on Youtube.

Fair point but what composer on earth would think they had enough rehearsal time?  I thought it was something more than this. 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: kyjo on September 16, 2017, 06:12:52 AM
The Nielsen variations are from 1982, so around the time of the 8th Symphony. Simpson didn't excise the original slow movement of 4, the only thing he did was alter the tempo from Adagio to Andante. And you can hear the earlier version, there is a recording of a BBC broadcast of 4 before Simpson made his change at Albion's Archive https://www.mediafire.com/?yqrs5q7n92j17#39gklf97ua449 .

I stand corrected! Thanks.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on October 01, 2017, 06:50:07 PM
Two CDs with a bearing on Simpson: both from the CRQ label which republishes older recordings or radio broadcasts. http://crqeditions.co.uk/

CRQ CD290-291 Is a double album of two Prom Concerts from 1966 with Charles Groves conducting. The first has a splendid performance of Haydn Symphony No.93 (the one with the bassoon fart joke in the slow movement) and a performance of Simpson's Third Symphony. This is  high powered performance like Horenstein's account, perhaps even better than his. The first movement is just a boiling cauldron of musical energy, and when I hear it in a fine performance like this I can't understand why this music isn't played more often and isn't considered the standard of comparison for late C20 symphonic music. The second movement, of course, is a three part structure of slow movement - scherzo like movement and finale, the whole evolving with majestic purpose and eloquence (and just as much musical energy).

In the main the Hyperion Handley recordings just lack that extra electricity that the Groves and Horenstein 3s, the Boult 1, and some of the radio recordings have. But I think the stature of the music can be seen in them anyway, particularly in Handley's 9 & 10, which are so obviously monumental that no-one could mistake this.

[The second disk is another Prom, where Groves conducts Walton's Scapino and VW's Serenade to Music, both fine performances. The last work is Delius's Appalachia... Delius isn't my cup of tea.]

Well worth getting, though don't expect modern sound.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on October 01, 2017, 06:58:32 PM
The second disk is  CRQ CD268 which has Simpson conducting Beethoven's 3rd. In the introduction Simpson explains he wanted to perform Beethoven's 3rd as Beethoven would have wished (he doesn't use the term 'authentic performance'). He does this with modern instruments but in the strength that Beethoven's orchestra would have had (ie fewer strings), and by discarding any changes that conductors have made over the years to the score (motivated by the need to rebalance the sound for an orchestra with more strings, or where it was perceived that Beethoven was limited by the natural brass instruments of his day).

The result is an amazing performance, and not, as you might expect from Simpson's sceptical comments about Beethoven's metronome in his writing, very slow at all.

The coupling is the first radio broadcast of Havergal Brian's Sinfonia Tragica (No.6), which Simpson produced. This is a useful comparison with the two commercial recordings available.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: JohnP on October 01, 2017, 10:12:34 PM
Two CDs with a bearing on Simpson: both from the CRQ label which republishes older recordings or radio broadcasts. http://crqeditions.co.uk/

CRQ CD290-291 Is a double album of two Prom Concerts from 1966 with Charles Groves conducting. The first has a splendid performance of Haydn Symphony No.93 (the one with the bassoon fart joke in the slow movement) and a performance of Simpson's Third Symphony. This is  high powered performance like Horenstein's account, perhaps even better than his. The first movement is just a boiling cauldron of musical energy, and when I hear it in a fine performance like this I can't understand why this music isn't played more often and isn't considered the standard of comparison for late C20 symphonic music. The second movement, of course, is a three part structure of slow movement - scherzo like movement and finale, the whole evolving with majestic purpose and eloquence (and just as much musical energy).

In the main the Hyperion Handley recordings just lack that extra electricity that the Groves and Horenstein 3s, the Boult 1, and some of the radio recordings have. But I think the stature of the music can be seen in them anyway, particularly in Handley's 9 & 10, which are so obviously monumental that no-one could mistake this.

[The second disk is another Prom, where Groves conducts Walton's Scapino and VW's Serenade to Music, both fine performances. The last work is Delius's Appalachia... Delius isn't my cup of tea.]

Well worth getting, though don't expect modern sound.

Steve Schwartz at Classical Net agrees and believes that Simpson stands at least with Shostakovich and compares his string quartets to those of Beethoven and Bartok

http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/h/hyp66905a.php
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 28, 2018, 05:40:45 AM
I listened to Simpson's third,a few weeks ago,and I DID enjoy it! The recording was the one on the old Unicorn Lp. (I got it off Youtube and put it on a cd-r.) I remember liking it,when I was a youngster. I particularly enjoyed those quiet 'space-y' (as in 'outer space) sounds in some of the quieter moments,which seemed to reflect Simpson's interest in astronomy. I even thought of buying the Hyperion cd;which I used to own. After reading a whole load of posts on various forums;I decided not to! There does seem to be a consensus of opinion on Simpson's music. One,being that his music lacks warmth,and an emphasis on form,to the detriment of other qualities which generally endear one to a composer. Also,a worrying amount of posts which speak of initial enthusiasm,only to be followed by,not listening to them much,or at all. Interestingly,I also notice,on the Hyperion website,that the box set has been deleted and some of the Hyperion cd's are archive,only! Also,while deleted cd's of composers often fetch high prices from sellers,Simpson's are all usually "dirt cheap"! I must admit,I did like his Fifth and Ninth,at first;only to,later,follow the trajectory of some (allot) of the posts I read! :( I have to say,in his defense;I do admire what he did for Havergal Brian. Also,I once wrote a rather over enthusiastic letter to him;only to receive a letter from his wife informing that he had suffered a stroke,and thanking me for my letter. I wrote another letter apologising for my first letter. I received a lovely reply from his wife (Angela) telling me not to worry;and thanking me for my letters. I remember thinking what a nice person to have written that! It was terrible,the stroke he had! I believe it affected him in such a way that pain killing drugs had no effect!!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 28, 2018, 06:12:09 AM
I like Symphony 1 (Boult) and 3 (Horenstein), the others I struggle with. To me they sound a bit like Nielsen without the tunes, but I wil persevere with Nos 2, 4 and 9 following recommendations here.
This is pretty much still my view of Simpson's music. Symphony 1, his PhD thesis from Durham, remains my favourite although No.3 is very impressive and powerful.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 28, 2018, 08:05:45 AM
Robert Simpson is one of those intelligent and masterly artists whose world-view limits their range of expression. I respect and admire him, and I appreciate several of his symphonies, like 3 and 9. But I hardly ever feel the urge to listen again. There is a hard objectivity to his music and a one-sided interest in process and structure, but not in aid of expression. And that, to me, is a weakness. Havergal Brian may be his inferior in overall symphonic planning, but his work is all expression and dramatic contrast, all structural surprise.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 28, 2018, 08:44:09 AM
Yes,I remember my initial enthusiasm,soon died down. Usually,I would expect to collect all the others,if I liked something,that much. Of course,sometimes,there's a reason why you can't. In the case of Simpson,interest just seemed to fizzle out. And yet,when I first heard the Hyperion recordings of 3 & 5 and nine,I remember playing them quite allot. I even had my late mother sit through the Ninth,with me. I thought it was that good. I seem to recall it received some praise in Gramophone,at the time;and it was one of their recordings of the year (or month?). Judging from their website,I get the feeling that even Hyperion might be getting cold feet? Although,they do make periodic deletions,of course!
Yes,a bit like Nielsen,without the tunes........and warmth. The Fifth is a case in point. Very cleverly constructed. But,maybe too clever-clever,for it's own good. I agree with Johan about Havergal Brian. Daniel Jones is another example. There's a humanity and warmth there;which draws me back.
I don't want to sound too disparaging,though. I wish I could compose;and Robert Simpson was obviously a clever man and wrote books.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 28, 2018, 08:53:42 AM
Bruckner is also strangely objective and cosmic, but his universe was animated by the divine. Simpson 'only' saw matter and energy and process. That seems to be not enough to draw people in. The past few weeks I have been lured into really exploring George Lloyd's symphonies... I have three of them on a loop: 6, 7 and 9. Would never happen with Simpson. Alas.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Baron Scarpia on March 28, 2018, 09:04:36 AM
Robert Simpson is one of those intelligent and masterly artists whose world-view limits their range of expression. I respect and admire him, and I appreciate several of his symphonies, like 3 and 9. But I hardly ever feel the urge to listen again. There is a hard objectivity to his music and a one-sided interest in process and structure, but not in aid of expression. And that, to me, is a weakness. Havergal Brian may be his inferior in overall symphonic planning, but his work is all expression and dramatic contrast, all structural surprise.

I think the structure usually turned out to be a surprise to Brian himself, as well. :)

Seriously, I've never been able to get into Brian because the music seemed too haphazard. I like some structure, a skeleton to hold the music together. The works would be amusing at first listen, but the more I listened the less I enjoyed them.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 28, 2018, 09:13:29 AM
I think the structure usually turned out to be a surprise to Brian himself, as well. :)

Seriously, I've never been able to get into Brian because the music seemed too haphazard. I like some structure, a skeleton to hold the music together. The works would be amusing at first listen, but the more I listened the less I enjoyed them.

Completely legitimate. I think those studies by Malcolm MacDonald certainly aided my understanding. But apart from that - I simply fell for the music, it spoke my language. You cannot engineer love or appreciation.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 28, 2018, 11:59:35 AM
At the risk of carrying on my role of the one-man Simpson fan club I have to say that I don't share any of these views. I think that even if Simpson was simply a intellectualising materialist then his music would still be interesting enough to engage, but in fact the more I listen the more I hear the actual emotions that are in play. It's fascinating to hear Simpson in various places verging close on the English pastoral (Herbert Howells was his teacher, he loved Vaughan Williams' music).

Try the first String Quintet, gorgeous music. Or the String Quartet no.10, the actual voices of angels  ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on March 28, 2018, 12:55:31 PM
Your advocacy is much appreciated, calyptorhynchus!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: arpeggio on March 28, 2018, 03:17:43 PM
At the risk of carrying on my role of the one-man Simpson fan club ...

Just because I have not submitted any posts does not mean that I am not a member of the Simpson fan club.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Baron Scarpia on March 28, 2018, 03:25:27 PM
Just because I have not submitted any posts does not mean that I am not a member of the Simpson fan club.

I'm also a Simpson admirer (though not a rabid one).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Baron Scarpia on March 28, 2018, 03:27:29 PM
Robert Simpson is one of those intelligent and masterly artists whose world-view limits their range of expression. I respect and admire him, and I appreciate several of his symphonies, like 3 and 9. But I hardly ever feel the urge to listen again. There is a hard objectivity to his music and a one-sided interest in process and structure, but not in aid of expression. And that, to me, is a weakness. Havergal Brian may be his inferior in overall symphonic planning, but his work is all expression and dramatic contrast, all structural surprise.

This seems to imply that having an interest in form and being expressive are somehow at odds. I don't think that is necessarily the case.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 29, 2018, 04:15:52 AM
I've got to say that,after my recent listen to the old Horenstein recording,I really wouldn't mind hearing his third,again. I do like those 'space-y' sounds. And I quite like the way the Fifth seems to die away,after all that explosion of orchestral power. Maybe,I do,still quite like,at least,some,of his music?!! :-\ ;D They make a good pairing on that Hyperion cd.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 30, 2018, 02:43:44 AM
Last night I finally admitted to myself that I did have a niggling desire to hear Simpson's third again!! ::) ;D The fact that Dundonnell regards the symphonies of Robert Simpson so highly (he started the thread) was another factor. I've also got to admit,that,regardless of the music,I really do like some of the photos on the front of the Hyperion releases!! ::) ;D Of course,as an avid collector,I couldn't possibly buy a copy of the third,without have another shot at the Ninth;and even try one,or two, of the symphonies,which I haven't heard,and which Simpson admirers,rate amongs the best. Despite,attempts to resist;No's 3 & 5,2 & 4 and 9,will soon be wending their way here!! ::) ;D And some cool cd artwork!! 8)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 30, 2018, 05:36:44 AM
Last night I finally admitted to myself that I did have a niggling desire to hear Simpson's third again!! ::) ;D The fact that Dundonnell regards the symphonies of Robert Simpson so highly (he started the thread) was another factor. I've also got to admit,that,regardless of the music,I really do like some of the photos on the front of the Hyperion releases!! ::) ;D Of course,as an avid collector,I couldn't possibly buy a copy of the third,without have another shot at the Ninth;and even try one,or two, of the symphonies,which I haven't heard,and which Simpson admirers,rate amongs the best. Despite,attempts to resist;No's 3 & 5,2 & 4 and 9,will soon be wending their way here!! ::) ;D And some cool cd artwork!! 8)

The massive sun/landscape on the front of the original Unicorn Souvenir series release of Horenstein's recording of the Third Symphony (not Simpson with his pipe, as on the reissue) is my favourite Simpson CD cover image although the Hyperion No.9 is a great image as well which I prefer to the other 'Sky at Night' type images.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on March 30, 2018, 06:11:29 AM
The massive sun/landscape on the front of the original Unicorn Souvenir series release of Horenstein's recording of the Third Symphony (not Simpson with his pipe, as on the reissue) is my favourite Simpson CD cover image

(http://photos.imageevent.com/sgtrock/oct2010/Simpson3horenstein.jpg)


Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 30, 2018, 06:20:19 AM
Yes,that one is my favourite,too! I wish they could have kept it for the reissue! And yes,I'd pick the cover of the Ninth as my favourite. But I do like some of the others. Particularly,2 & 4,followed by 3 & 5. I also like 6 & 7,for some reason!! I've often been tempted to buy them on this basis;but have put off by mixed opinions on forums,and my own initial experience of these symphonies. I did like No 3,though. I used to play the Lp version,quite often,when I was young. The sleeve was a definite plus!! Now,after putting up some,rather,negative observations I've been thinking about what I listened to and I've decided to have another go at some of them. It's funny! I actually remember getting excited enough about the Ninth,at the time,to get my late mother to sit listening to it,with me! The symphony is followed,I seem to remember,with Simpson,which she seemed to enjoy.

Thanks,Sarge. Strangely,enough......this is the one I had,and remember propping up in front of me,and gazing at,while I listened to the Lp!

(https://i.imgur.com/j4Pm2XP.jpg)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 30, 2018, 06:25:04 AM
It's probably one of the reasons I enjoyed the symphony so much. I was really into astronomy and space travel,then. I remember,I collected all the PG tips 'Race into Space' cards & pasted them all,meticulously,into the special book.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on March 30, 2018, 06:38:35 AM
It's probably one of the reasons I enjoyed the symphony so much. I was really into astronomy and space travel,then.

That is a cool cover.

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Baron Scarpia on March 30, 2018, 07:05:37 PM
I have the Simpson symphony cycle from Hyperion. Never listened to any of it. Where should a person start? Probably would respond well to something with a bit of wit.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 30, 2018, 07:16:06 PM
I listened to Simpson's third,a few weeks ago,and I DID enjoy it! The recording was the one on the old Unicorn Lp. (I got it off Youtube and put it on a cd-r.) I remember liking it,when I was a youngster.

For whatever reason, I never really got into 3 & 5 - they struck me as impressive, but somehow hard to like.

The symphonies I still like, after knowing them for years, are 2, 4, 9 and (with some reservations) 8.

Quote
It was terrible,the stroke he had! I believe it affected him in such a way that pain killing drugs had no effect!!

I think this is what he suffered from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dejerine–Roussy_syndrome

It essentially ended his composing career - it is hard to concentrate on writing music when you are afflicted with a more or less permanent headache.

I have the Simpson symphony cycle from Hyperion. Never listened to any of it. Where should a person start? Probably would respond well to something with a bit of wit.

Symphonies 2 or 4. Or the Nielsen Variations, assuming they're part of that box.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 31, 2018, 12:12:28 AM
(http://photos.imageevent.com/sgtrock/oct2010/Simpson3horenstein.jpg)


Sarge

Thank you Sarge! Yes, that's the one.

Prompted by this discussion I listened to Simpson's Third Symphony yesterday (NMC reissue of Horenstein's recording - Simpson with pipe as cover image).

If anything I enjoyed it more than before - a powerful and memorable work. I'd forgotten that it was dedicated to Havergal Brian and parts of the second movement reminded me of HBs music and I wondered if this was a deliberate tribute from Simpson. I enjoyed the first movement very much. My attention flagged a bit in the opening sections of the second movement but I became increasingly gripped as the movement progresses and was very pleased to hear this work again. I agree with cilgwyn about the Hyperion cover of 3 and 5 which is my favourite of the outer space series. I also had a keen interest in astronomy and space exploration and still,occasionally look at the Moon or rings of Saturn through my telescope. I also made a rather large airfix model of the Saturn V rocket in my youth. I still find the photo of the Earth from their orbit of the Moon taken by the Apollo 8 crew (Borman, Lovell, Anders - I still remember!) around Christmas 1968 to be more meaningful that the Moon landing itself in some ways. Anyway, back to Simpson. I think that symphonies 2 and 4 need to be my next port of call from the postings on this thread. No.1 is my other favourite and I love that old EMI CD with Boult's recording of the work coupled with Robin Orr's highly memorably and concise Symphony and Fricker's Second Symphony (the best of his symphonies I think).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 31, 2018, 12:16:39 AM
I have the Simpson symphony cycle from Hyperion. Never listened to any of it. Where should a person start? Probably would respond well to something with a bit of wit.

From my experience Nos 1 and 3 although 2 and 9 are highly rated by many here.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DaveF on March 31, 2018, 12:23:34 AM
I also made a rather large airfix model of the Saturn V rocket in my youth.

So did I!  (And probably so did most other boys our age).  But the good news is that you can relive your childhood for the same sort of price as, say, a box of the Bernstein edition:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Airfix-Apollo-Saturn-V-144-scale-1973-2nd-box-complete/183154389926?hash=item2aa4da33a6:g:zYAAAOSwUZNavmMf
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 31, 2018, 12:31:14 AM
So did I!  (And probably so did most other boys our age).  But the good news is that you can relive your childhood for the same sort of price as, say, a box of the Bernstein edition:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Airfix-Apollo-Saturn-V-144-scale-1973-2nd-box-complete/183154389926?hash=item2aa4da33a6:g:zYAAAOSwUZNavmMf

How extraordinary and what a nostalgia trip! Thank you.
Yes, that's the one. I seem to recall that I made it and my auntie who's was a jewellery designer painted the markings on it for me.
 :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 31, 2018, 01:20:25 AM
From my experience Nos 1 and 3 although 2 and 9 are highly rated by many here.
Don't forget 10, imagine the Hammerklavier Sonata (played by someone who Really Can Play, because many can't) as a Symphony!

I'm not sure whether the astronomy theme was a good idea for the Simpson Hyperion CD covers. If they'd been issued with the standard countryside shots that we get with other British composers I'm sure we'd hear less about Simpson's impersonality.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 31, 2018, 01:36:51 AM
Don't forget 10, imagine the Hammerklavier Sonata (played by someone who Really Can Play, because many can't) as a Symphony!

I'm not sure whether the astronomy theme was a good idea for the Simpson Hyperion CD covers. If they'd been issued with the standard countryside shots that we get with other British composers I'm sure we'd hear less about Simpson's impersonality.

An interesting point and also about the relationship between cover images and our perception of the music. My first and most influential contact with the VW symphonies was with a Decca LP of Symphony 6 featuring an image of the craggy Blae Tarn landscape in the Lake District in the North of England. Thereafter I always came to associate the music with this kind of rugged rural scene rather than with post-atomic warfare destruction as was the view of many commentators.

Wasn't Simpson a keen astronomer as well?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 31, 2018, 02:59:21 AM
Don't forget 10, imagine the Hammerklavier Sonata (played by someone who Really Can Play, because many can't) as a Symphony!

I'm not sure whether the astronomy theme was a good idea for the Simpson Hyperion CD covers. If they'd been issued with the standard countryside shots that we get with other British composers I'm sure we'd hear less about Simpson's impersonality.
I wouldn't have wanted to buy them so much,though! Let alone,this:

(https://i.imgur.com/j4Pm2XP.jpg)

A good point though,calyptorhyncus. I had some idea Simpson was interested in astronomy,too?! I can understand why vandermolen was enthused by the cover art on his Lp. It's a great cover image. Very striking. Presumably my Lp was a later reissue? I wonder why Unicorn changed the imagery?Obvious answer. It might sell more copies to mugs like me! ::) ;D It reminds me of some of the fun,and in a garish way,quite wonderful,artwork you used to have on some of those science fiction paperbacks. (Is it me,or is book artwork not as good as it used to be?!)
I remember being less grabbed,and even slightly bored,by the second movement,too. But after a while it did seem to grown on me. For some strange (extremely strange,probably?! ???) reason it somehow reminds me of the 'Moonchild' track on In the court of the Crimson King. I loved the opening tracks,and,as a lover of classical music, the 'orchestral' feel to the third track,with Greg Lake's (Rip,to him,by the way! :() soaring vocals,followed by a rather nice song,followed by,erm..............a lot of interminable noodling!!! At this point,I usually jumped to the final track! One day,however,I decided to persist. I listened very carefull,all the way,to the end;and somehow,very strangely,in a noodling sort of way,it did seem to build up. I going to say,"make sense"? But,maybe not?!! I still haven't got a clue what it's all about.....or who,the b***** h*** the Fire Witch,is?!! ::) ;D
Anyway,enough of King Crimson! You'll probably be wondering whether I'm smoking something,at this point,or indulging in strange mushrooms,picked at break of day?!! All,I can say is that,I think I actually might like that second movement,now? I'll need to listen to it again before passing further comment,mind! I rather like the fact that it's very quiet,though. After all that energy,in the first movement,it could be a bit of a master stroke,on Simpson's part?!! The Hurwitz was wrong to call the symphony "boring",too!

 ??? :-\ :)

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 31, 2018, 03:24:56 AM
cilgwyn - the image I like was, I think, of the first Unicorn Souvernir Series CD release posted above by Sarge, not the LP which had the more 'Star Wars' cover which you have. Both have the giant red sun however.  8)

PS just to confuse things further the LP I recall had a photo of the Earth from space on it.
(http://)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 31, 2018, 03:31:30 AM
That's great,too!! 8)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 31, 2018, 03:41:14 AM
That's great,too!! 8)

I agree. I suspect that it was the original LP release, then reissued with the more 'Star Wars' LP cover which you have to be followed by the CD release which I have. I've had to employ my full Sherlock Holmes-type detective skills here to track the sequence of events.
 8)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 31, 2018, 04:32:05 AM
I like the first two best. For obvious reasons you prefer the one you got;and I can see,why? Another great outer space cover,of course,as you know,and nothing to do with this thread;was that Lp of Sargent's recording of Holst's The Planets. The first Lp that ever,actually,belonged to me. (My grandmother gave it to me,as a present!). And here's the booklet with those PG tips cards,I collected. For those too young to know;PG tips used to put a card inside the box of tea. Some of them had lovely paintings on them. Indeed,the,renowned naturalist painter,Charles Tunnicliffe, contributed some. Incidentally,according to the PG tips booklet,we already have a moon base and went to Mars,around two decades ago (or more!). I really must keep up with the news!! ::) ;D

(https://i.imgur.com/0C82WfN.jpg)      (https://i.imgur.com/8SNUI9f.jpg)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on March 31, 2018, 05:46:22 AM
Robert Simpson's Ninth is on the way here,apparently!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Baron Scarpia on March 31, 2018, 05:59:38 AM
Thanks for the suggestions!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on March 31, 2018, 09:15:42 AM
I like the first two best. For obvious reasons you prefer the one you got;and I can see,why? Another great outer space cover,of course,as you know,and nothing to do with this thread;was that Lp of Sargent's recording of Holst's The Planets. The first Lp that ever,actually,belonged to me. (My grandmother gave it to me,as a present!). And here's the booklet with those PG tips cards,I collected. For those too young to know;PG tips used to put a card inside the box of tea. Some of them had lovely paintings on them. Indeed,the,renowned naturalist painter,Charles Tunnicliffe, contributed some. Incidentally,according to the PG tips booklet,we already have a moon base and went to Mars,around two decades ago (or more!). I really must keep up with the news!! ::) ;D

(https://i.imgur.com/0C82WfN.jpg)      (https://i.imgur.com/8SNUI9f.jpg)
I remember that Apollo themed LP sleeve for the Planets very well. My cousin owned it. I rather liked the Decca Eclipse planets with Stonehenge on the front. I missed out on the PG tips cards but it remains my favourite tea.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 01, 2018, 04:31:25 AM
I'm sure you had better thing to do than collect PG Tips card! It's strange,and pertinent,to think that an illustrator of Tunnicliffe's stature designed some of them! Another age! And remember the ad,with those chimps carrying the piano down the stairs?! Very funny! The last one died,fairly,recently! RIP,to Choppers!! :( I remember being taken to see Guy the gorilla,too! I think my parents realised their mistake,later,and took Guy back to the zoo?!! :( ;D ;D

I liked the Sargent recording with Stonehenge on it,too. What with,Night of the Demon,theories about ancient astronomy,and the fact that those old prehistoric stones,are always a bit spooky and mysterious;it does seem appropriate.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 01, 2018, 01:41:49 PM
I'm sure you had better thing to do than collect PG Tips card! It's strange,and pertinent,to think that an illustrator of Tunnicliffe's stature designed some of them! Another age! And remember the ad,with those chimps carrying the piano down the stairs?! Very funny! The last one died,fairly,recently! RIP,to Choppers!! :( I remember being taken to see Guy the gorilla,too! I think my parents realised their mistake,later,and took Guy back to the zoo?!! :( ;D ;D

I liked the Sargent recording with Stonehenge on it,too. What with,Night of the Demon,theories about ancient astronomy,and the fact that those old prehistoric stones,are always a bit spooky and mysterious;it does seem appropriate.
Night of the Demon is, along with Dead of Night one of my favourite films (great scores by Clifton Parker and Georges Auric as well). My father loved taking me to London Zoo so Guy the Gorilla was another old friend.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 02, 2018, 04:04:03 AM
Funnily,enough,I've had a paperback of the Collected Ghost Stories of EF Benson,for a few years,now. I only recently got around to reading it. I think the Foreword's put me off. (Why down play the merit of a book you want to flog?!!) I  had enjoyed one,or two,in anthologies,before. But I thought they might be a little formulaic. How wrong I was! One of them,The Bus Conductor,is one of the stories told in Dead of Night ("Room for one more!"). I see that his ghost stories are rated very highly by many.....and rightly,so! A little more lurid than MR James;but that's what makes them fun. And nice and short! "The Face",is one of the creepiest supernatural stories,I have read. After I finished it the wind blew the bathroom door shut upstairs. It was late at night,and I,literally,shot out of my seat!! ??? ;D Great fun! ::) ;D!  Algernon Blackwood is another favourite! Yes,great films. The 1966 episode of The Avengers,"Too many Christmas trees",often rated as the best ever episode,features Mervyn Johns,as one of the guest stars. Patrick Macnee (John Steed) has a recurring dream,which leads him to a country house filled with assorted guests! The menacing atmosphere,plot line and the inclusion of Mervyn John,a knowing,and clever nod to the celebrated British chiller. One to watch,if you think later episodes got too whimsical for their own good! I admit,I'm a fan;but the b& w episodes (as opposed to the colour,ones) with Diana Rigg,were the best.

And back to Robert Simpson!! ::) ;D  Hopefully,some of those Robert Simpson cd's will be sliding through my letterbox,before long?!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 06, 2018, 10:35:03 PM
Funnily,enough,I've had a paperback of the Collected Ghost Stories of EF Benson,for a few years,now. I only recently got around to reading it. I think the Foreword's put me off. (Why down play the merit of a book you want to flog?!!) I  had enjoyed one,or two,in anthologies,before. But I thought they might be a little formulaic. How wrong I was! One of them,The Bus Conductor,is one of the stories told in Dead of Night ("Room for one more!"). I see that his ghost stories are rated very highly by many.....and rightly,so! A little more lurid than MR James;but that's what makes them fun. And nice and short! "The Face",is one of the creepiest supernatural stories,I have read. After I finished it the wind blew the bathroom door shut upstairs. It was late at night,and I,literally,shot out of my seat!! ??? ;D Great fun! ::) ;D!  Algernon Blackwood is another favourite! Yes,great films. The 1966 episode of The Avengers,"Too many Christmas trees",often rated as the best ever episode,features Mervyn Johns,as one of the guest stars. Patrick Macnee (John Steed) has a recurring dream,which leads him to a country house filled with assorted guests! The menacing atmosphere,plot line and the inclusion of Mervyn John,a knowing,and clever nod to the celebrated British chiller. One to watch,if you think later episodes got too whimsical for their own good! I admit,I'm a fan;but the b& w episodes (as opposed to the colour,ones) with Diana Rigg,were the best.

And back to Robert Simpson!! ::) ;D  Hopefully,some of those Robert Simpson cd's will be sliding through my letterbox,before long?!
How interesting thanks. I must lookout that episode of The Avengers which sounds fun and the EF Benson ghost stories. I always thought that Michael Redgrave over-acted  but he is very good as the deranged ventriloquist in Dead of Night. Back to the Avengers - I recently enjoyed the episode featuring a very young John Cleese and Bernard Cribbins who both come to a sticky end. There are two entertainingly murderous clowns, one played by the veteran comedian Jimmy Jewell and the other by the son of the British composer Francis Chagrin! Your bathroom door episode reminded me of the time I was watching the film 'Mosquito Squadron' on TV and just as planes were attacking the Nazi stronghold a flame shot out of the back of the TV and the screen went blank.
Back to Simpson -I shall be playing the Hyperion version of Symphony 1 later which I discovered whilst having a CD sort out (of sorts).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 07, 2018, 12:41:53 AM
"Too many Christmas Trees" is regularly cited as the best ever episode of the Avengers! The black and white photography is top notch,with allot of very striking images. The shots of the country house,that Steed has seen in his dream,when they arrive. The house filled with an array of costumed,characters. A mock execution,with guillotine. A sinister Father Christmas. This was before the series got more whimsical,and tongue in cheek;and the mix of menace and humour was just right!  I'm a bit of a fan,I must admit;but I sometimes wish I'd stayed like that. If you enjoyed Dead of Night,you should enjoy this one? It's obviously inspired by the movie. The presence of Mervyn John is obviously no coincidence. And in a,sort of reverse role. The episode with the clowns is one of my favourites. This was when the humour had got more to the fore. Jimmy Jewell is brilliant in his part (I liked him in Nearest and Dearest,too!). I had no idea that Francis Chagrin's son was one of the clowns!!!! You're story about your tv and Mosquito Squadron,is very funny! Tv's were certainly more entertaining then,in some ways,with all those hot valves! I can remember sitting watching the tv with my parents,and someone saying,"I think there's smoke coming out of the back?!" As,you do!!! ??? ;D

I have been listening to the Robert Simpson symphonies that arrived. I do like the third symphony,actually. I like the way it opens,with those "spacey" sounds at the beginning. I too,can remember not liking the second movement as much. Listening to it now,it does seem like the only logical step,after all the pounding energy in the preceding movement.
After a rather embarassing mix-up;which you can read about in the "What are you listening to now" thread,at the Art Music Forum ::);I have been listening to the cd of symphonies 2 & 4. These strike me as tougher nuts to crack! I think,post that Lyrita Fricker symphony set;I am in a more receptive mind towards Simpson's muse than I was,last time around! I do like those "outer space" shots on the front of the jewel cases,too. They really do look nice in my collection! Or just propped up,while I listen!! ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 07, 2018, 10:25:32 PM
I will download 'Too Many Christmas Trees' on Amazon Video. I listened to Vernon Handley's recording of Simpson's First Symphony yesterday with much pleasure although I turned off No.8 after a few minutes. I read the other day that Boult's recording of Symphony 1 is superior in every way other than recording but I have enjoyed both versions enormously. I will have another listen to Symphony No.9 soon.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: amw on April 07, 2018, 11:10:32 PM
I have the Simpson symphony cycle from Hyperion. Never listened to any of it. Where should a person start? Probably would respond well to something with a bit of wit.

No.2 for wit and accessibility, or No.7 for emotional and psychological power
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 08, 2018, 01:23:34 AM


Playing here,now. Robert Simpson's Second symphony. I've been listening to this cd (and it is the right one this time,I have checked! ;D) since last night. I seem to be hooked on "Nielsen without the tunes",and wondering how long I can resist the urge to collect the remaining cd's in the series. I like the way he builds up his ideas. There is an unfolding logic. None of that feeling of aimlessness you get in some lesser symphonies. I love the quieter moments,too. They really curl into the corners of your mind and hold your attention (well,they do mine!). They never seem to be just put there,because it's a symphony,and you put quiet bits there! To be honest,I can't really understand why I wasn't won over by these symphonies the first time around? I really like what I'm hearing. Oh,and I don't find them particularly cold,either. In fact,I feel a warmth to their Beethovenian,fiery spirit! ;D  Oh,and I've got to say,I love this cover image! :)

(https://i.imgur.com/nwO4G1K.jpg)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 08, 2018, 02:02:20 AM

Playing here,now. Robert Simpson's Second symphony. I've been listening to this cd (and it is the right one this time,I have checked! ;D) since last night. I seem to be hooked on "Nielsen without the tunes",and wondering how long I can resist the urge to collect the remaining cd's in the series. I like the way he builds up his ideas. There is an unfolding logic. None of that feeling of aimlessness you get in some lesser symphonies. I love the quieter moments,too. They really curl into the corners of your mind and hold your attention (well,they do mine!). They never seem to be just put there,because it's a symphony,and you put quiet bits there! To be honest,I can't really understand why I wasn't won over by these symphonies the first time around? I really like what I'm hearing. Oh,and I don't find them particularly cold,either. In fact,I feel a warmth to their Beethovenian,fiery spirit! ;D  Oh,and I've got to say,I love this cover image! :)

(https://i.imgur.com/nwO4G1K.jpg)

Well, I must try 2 next I think on your recommendation. I think that 3 is my favourite now rather than 1.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 08, 2018, 02:30:16 AM
I like them both,now!! :o ;D  I've had the cd on since late,last night. I can't really see anything "wrong" with them,now. In fact,I suddenly find them very absorbing......to my surprise! :o I will put on the cd of 3 & 5 in a little while. Reading what Rob Barnett has written here about the eighth may well explain why you would react so negatively to that one. Perhaps Simpson's own "schemes" were the best?!! And presumably,they would be? I'll  be interested to hear that one!

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/Sept06/Simpson_symphonies_CDS441917.htm (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/Sept06/Simpson_symphonies_CDS441917.htm)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 08, 2018, 03:09:36 AM
I like them both,now!! :o ;D  I've had the cd on since late,last night. I can't really see anything "wrong" with them,now. In fact,I suddenly find them very absorbing......to my surprise! :o I will put on the cd of 3 & 5 in a little while. Reading what Rob Barnett has written here about the eighth may well explain why you would react so negatively to that one. Perhaps Simpson's own "schemes" were the best?!! And presumably,they would be? I'll  be interested to hear that one!

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/Sept06/Simpson_symphonies_CDS441917.htm (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/Sept06/Simpson_symphonies_CDS441917.htm)
Thanks cilgwyn. It sounds like I should listen right through No.8 before making a final judgment!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 08, 2018, 03:56:02 AM
It is a great cover photo! I could almost want the cd for that.........even if I hated the music!!
I just listened to the Fifth. I love the stillness,right at the end,after all that violence.
It's strange how I'm responding to these symphonies so positively,now? What's happening to me?!!! ??? :o :( ;D

(https://i.imgur.com/FSYg82s.jpg)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 08, 2018, 04:24:37 AM
I'm listening to his Ninth,now. While one can admire the structure and architecture of this symphony,and the growling,blazing brass is something! Yet,I think I preferred the earlier symphonies,I heard. I seem to remember it breaks into a faster section after a prolonged,thunderous climax;so maybe?........!!! :-\
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 08, 2018, 04:30:20 AM
Yes,my memory served me correctly,it does!! It's very cleverly constructed,isn't it? But I still think I prefer 2,3,4 & 5?! There's less variety here. Not that,I don't like it! :-\ ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 08, 2018, 04:34:34 AM
The symphony reaches a thunderous climax. I like the low brass notes and the stillness that follows. So,maybe I do now!! :-\ :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on April 08, 2018, 07:48:19 AM
That disc of Symphonies 2  & 4 is probably the Simpson CD I've listened to most over the years. The 2nd Symphony reminds me of Hindemith, and the 4th reminds me of Nielsen. I think it shows him off at his best.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 08, 2018, 12:30:13 PM
Any other admirers of Symphony 1?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on April 08, 2018, 01:16:19 PM
Any other admirers of Symphony 1?

The best-sounding PhD dissertation ever written!

Seriously, I like it well enough, I just don't like it as much as several of his later symphonies.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: SymphonicAddict on April 08, 2018, 05:26:44 PM
The first 5 symphonies and the 9th are my favorites. Simpson's music is not for everybody. It could be true his oeuvre tends to be cold and cerebral. I personally like the sense of growing and the energy the symphonies display. As for the string quartets, I much prefer the symphonies to them. I'll need to revisit this symphonic cycle at some point soon.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 08, 2018, 09:59:54 PM
Thanks Caesar and AToA.

Yes, No.1 was Simpson's PhD thesis but a fine work in its own right I think.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 08, 2018, 11:24:28 PM
The Ninth symphony certainly is an impressive creation. That said,I preferred No's 2,3,4 & 5. The inspiration just seems more varied. I feel that,in a way,the Ninth is a bit too clever for it's own good,ultimately. And yes,I think the cd of No's 2 & 4,is a superb collection. I listened to it several times in succession. And no doubt,I will again.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on April 08, 2018, 11:42:18 PM
Funnily,enough,I've had a paperback of the Collected Ghost Stories of EF Benson,for a few years,now. I only recently got around to reading it. I think the Foreword's put me off. (Why down play the merit of a book you want to flog?!!) I  had enjoyed one,or two,in anthologies,before. But I thought they might be a little formulaic. How wrong I was! One of them,The Bus Conductor,is one of the stories told in Dead of Night ("Room for one more!"). I see that his ghost stories are rated very highly by many.....and rightly,so! A little more lurid than MR James;but that's what makes them fun. And nice and short! "The Face",is one of the creepiest supernatural stories,I have read. After I finished it the wind blew the bathroom door shut upstairs. It was late at night,and I,literally,shot out of my seat!! ??? ;D Great fun! ::) ;D!  Algernon Blackwood is another favourite! Yes,great films. The 1966 episode of The Avengers,"Too many Christmas trees",often rated as the best ever episode,features Mervyn Johns,as one of the guest stars. Patrick Macnee (John Steed) has a recurring dream,which leads him to a country house filled with assorted guests!

Right, the episode in which they get a Christmas card from . . . Ft Knox.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on April 09, 2018, 12:33:02 PM
Any other admirers of Symphony 1?

Although I've had the box of Simpson Symphonies for several years, I've never listened to the First. Correcting that oversight now as I type. Liking very much the first few minutes.

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 09, 2018, 12:39:14 PM
Although I've had the box of Simpson Symphonies for several years, I've never listened to the First. Correcting that oversight now as I type. Liking very much the first few minutes.

Sarge
:)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on April 09, 2018, 12:46:12 PM
:)

The slow movement is really lovely. If the last movement is as good as the first two, this Symphony may rival the Fourth in my estimation.

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: arpeggio on April 09, 2018, 12:53:19 PM
As a big Simpson fan I have to jump in.

My introduction to Simpson was the recording of the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies.  The structure of the Sixth really appealed to my pseudo intellectual nature.



One of the features of his sound world is that there are components of his music that sound like William Schuman.  It seems to me that his music should appeal to any Schuman fan.

It seems that many of his recordings are now out of print.  One can still acquire them affiliated sellers from Amazon.



 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 09, 2018, 10:33:35 PM
The slow movement is really lovely. If the last movement is as good as the first two, this Symphony may rival the Fourth in my estimation.

Sarge

Pleased to hear that you are enjoying this work Sarge.
 :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: arpeggio on April 10, 2018, 04:13:51 AM
As a result of the activity in this thread I was examining the various music sites about Simpson and it appears that many recordings of his works are now out of print.  It is a real shame if this is true.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Baron Scarpia on April 10, 2018, 05:07:37 AM
As a result of the activity in this thread I was examining the various music sites about Simpson and it appears that many recordings of his works are now out of print.  It is a real shame if this is true.

Even if the Hyperion recordings are no longer available as CDs, lossless or mp3 downloads are available from Hyperion's web site.

Was about to dig into the Hyperion symphony cycle last night, but couldn't resist listening to one more set of Debussy preludes last night.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: arpeggio on April 10, 2018, 01:01:58 PM
Even if the Hyperion recordings are no longer available as CDs, lossless or mp3 downloads are available from Hyperion's web site.

Was about to dig into the Hyperion symphony cycle last night, but couldn't resist listening to one more set of Debussy preludes last night.

Good to know.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 12, 2018, 11:52:13 PM
I got the Hyperion cd's of symphonies 2 & 4,3 & 5 and No 9,very cheaply from a certain ubiquitous,and in my experience,pretty reliable uk purveyor of cd's,dvd',and books too,now (I notice).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on April 12, 2018, 11:58:27 PM
The first 5 symphonies and the 9th are my favorites. Simpson's music is not for everybody. It could be true his oeuvre tends to be cold and cerebral. I personally like the sense of growing and the energy the symphonies display. As for the string quartets, I much prefer the symphonies to them. I'll need to revisit this symphonic cycle at some point soon.
So far,listening to symphonies 2,3,4 and 5,I think I'm beginning to concur with SymphonicAddict's assessment here. The Ninth is quite a creation,but there is less variety there than in the earlier symphonies. I will have another listen,soon.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: SymphonicAddict on July 23, 2018, 05:19:27 PM
I'm changing my mind about this great cycle. At first I thought the symphonies were cerebral and cold, but I'm revisiting them again and I don't think like that anymore. The 8th is playing right now. Wow! This is stunning! I hadn't perceived its true meaning. I really like its brooding and mysterious nature, with angry passages that remind me of some works by Malcolm Arnold, where the percussion has an important role. I enjoy the big climaxes contrasted with those whispering wind passages. I've also noticed the great Simpson's use of the timpani throughout the cycle. It's utterly thrilling.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: kyjo on July 23, 2018, 05:56:32 PM
I'm changing my mind about this great cycle. At first I thought the symphonies were cerebral and cold, but I'm revisiting them again and I don't think like that anymore. The 8th is playing right now. Wow! This is stunning! I hadn't perceived its true meaning. I really like its brooding and mysterious nature, with angry passages that remind me of some works by Malcolm Arnold, where the percussion has an important role. I enjoy the big climaxes contrasted with those whispering wind passages. I've also noticed the great Simpson's use of the timpani throughout the cycle. It's utterly thrilling.

Great to hear! I haven't quite warmed to Simpson's symphonies yet (finding them, like you once did, rather cerebral and cold), but your enthusiasm is encouraging me to give them some more time. I do remember the 8th being quite good. You mention Arnold - yes, I suppose there are similarities with Arnold's angrier works (Symphonies nos. 6 and 7 for instance) - but Simpson hardly has Arnold's melodic talent and is a much more one-dimensional composer as far as the different moods he creates through his music. Yes, the elemental power of his music can be thrilling, but I wish there was a little more emotional contrast to be found in it. I certainly agree with you about his exciting timpani parts!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 23, 2018, 10:07:20 PM
Great to hear! I haven't quite warmed to Simpson's symphonies yet (finding them, like you once did, rather cerebral and cold), but your enthusiasm is encouraging me to give them some more time. I do remember the 8th being quite good. You mention Arnold - yes, I suppose there are similarities with Arnold's angrier works (Symphonies nos. 6 and 7 for instance) - but Simpson hardly has Arnold's melodic talent and is a much more one-dimensional composer as far as the different moods he creates through his music. Yes, the elemental power of his music can be thrilling, but I wish there was a little more emotional contrast to be found in it. I certainly agree with you about his exciting timpani parts!
Very much agree with this Kyle but I must investigate more Simpson. No.3 is one that I like. His music still sounds a bit to me like Nielsen without the tunes but I'm getting to appreciate it more.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: "Harry" on July 24, 2018, 12:29:37 AM
When Robert Simpson's music was released on Hyperion aeons ago, I bought all that came out. His music and I clicked right away, and thus reminds me how long it is ago I had this music in my player. Must rectify this soon......
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on July 24, 2018, 05:37:50 AM
When Robert Simpson's music was released on Hyperion aeons ago, I bought all that came out. His music and I clicked right away, and thus reminds me how long it is ago I had this music in my player. Must rectify this soon......
I don't really click with his music.  I've tried to like it but am generally ambivalent to it.  Maybe I need to give it another go.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 on July 24, 2018, 06:40:00 AM
As he's a major British symphonist of the 20th century, I am very interested to hear this music. What symphonies would be a good starting point?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on July 24, 2018, 09:31:49 AM
As he's a major British symphonist of the 20th century, I am very interested to hear this music. What symphonies would be a good starting point?

If you like the neo-classical style, get the disc with symphonies 2 & 4.

If you like more large-scale romantic, get #9.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 24, 2018, 11:51:28 AM
As he's a major British symphonist of the 20th century, I am very interested to hear this music. What symphonies would be a good starting point?

I'd also suggest 1 and 3.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: "Harry" on July 24, 2018, 12:36:26 PM
As he's a major British symphonist of the 20th century, I am very interested to hear this music. What symphonies would be a good starting point?

I would listen to all of them. There is not a weak work amongst his oeuvre. :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: SymphonicAddict on July 25, 2018, 10:16:53 AM
I've listened to the first 9 symphonies and I can say none of them are bad, rather the opposite, tremendously invigorating. The Nielsen influence is more evident until the 4th, so for newbies I'd recommend the first 4 symphonies to begin. From the 5th on the atmosphere is more "mystic" and disquieting, being the 9th the highest point of this cycle, a true masterpiece full of drama that conveys a strong sense of energy and evolution, something really brilliant.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 25, 2018, 11:50:16 AM
I've listened to the first 9 symphonies and I can say none of them are bad, rather the opposite, tremendously invigorating. The Nielsen influence is more evident until the 4th, so for newbies I'd recommend the first 4 symphonies to begin. From the 5th on the atmosphere is more "mystic" and disquieting, being the 9th the highest point of this cycle, a true masterpiece full of drama that conveys a strong sense of energy and evolution, something really brilliant.
Thanks for the helpful summary Cesar - more incentive for me to listen to Simpson again.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: arpeggio on July 25, 2018, 01:03:02 PM
I've listened to the first 9 symphonies and I can say none of them are bad, rather the opposite, tremendously invigorating. The Nielsen influence is more evident until the 4th, so for newbies I'd recommend the first 4 symphonies to begin. From the 5th on the atmosphere is more "mystic" and disquieting, being the 9th the highest point of this cycle, a true masterpiece full of drama that conveys a strong sense of energy and evolution, something really brilliant.

Big Simpson fan.  I am jealous of people who can do a better job of explaining his music tham I can.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on July 26, 2018, 02:09:43 AM
After reading these recent posts,I just had to stop resisting temptation,and buy some more Robert Simpson symphonies. I intended to buy the cd of 6 & 7,but,pheweee,look at the prices!!! ??? :o I ended up buying the cd of symphonies 1 & 8,which was at a reasonable price! I now have No's 1-5,8 & 9 (or will have shortly!). Hyperion have deleted most of their Simpson symphony cd's,including the box set,and s/h prices are rocketing!! I'm not paying over £20 for a Robert Simpson cd,sorry!! Thanks to the Art Music Forum,I do have downloads of No 6 and the Piano concerto,however. I've got quite enough to get on with,for the time being,now,anyway!!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 26, 2018, 10:17:39 AM
After reading these recent posts,I just had to stop resisting temptation,and buy some more Robert Simpson symphonies. I intended to buy the cd of 6 & 7,but,pheweee,look at the prices!!! ??? :o I ended up buying the cd of symphonies 1 & 8,which was at a reasonable price! I now have No's 1-5,8 & 9 (or will have shortly!). Hyperion have deleted most of their Simpson symphony cd's,including the box set,and s/h prices are rocketing!! I'm not paying over £20 for a Robert Simpson cd,sorry!! Thanks to the Art Music Forum,I do have downloads of No 6 and the Piano concerto,however. I've got quite enough to get on with,for the time being,now,anyway!!
cilgwyn, don't forget that there is the Horenstein version of Symphony 3 which I like very much. It's available on Amazon UK in its two CD manifestations for under £10. I have to say that I prefer the Unicorn release with the giant Sun above a British landscape (I was going to say 'English' but realised that you might take offence, especially after your World Cup comment  8)) to the other one with Simpson and his pipe. There is also the terrific Boult CD with Symphony 1 coupled with Orr's Symphony in One Movement, which I love and Fricker's Symphony 2 with its very exciting final section. However, I'm sure that you're happy with the Handley version.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 26, 2018, 12:06:02 PM
I was having a sort out of my CDs today and the first Robert Simpson one that I came across was of Symphony 11 and the Nielsen Variations. I was interested to see that the Symphony was not conducted by Vernon Handley but by the dedicatee, Matthew Taylor. Anyway, I played the CD this evening and I'm sorry to say that my attention wandered after a very short time. The symphony reminded me of a massive piece of scaffolding which, when removed, reveals no building - in other words, an impressive structure with no content. Others will disagree. I found it totally unmemorable. When Simpson, a man of great integrity, wrote about Bruckner and Nielsen it was invariably about 'the struggle for B flat major' or whatever (I have no understanding of the technicality of music). Simpson's Symphony 11 sounded to me like 'the struggle' for a particular key without anything else - in other words it's all structure and not much else. It reminded me of my attempting to read Mervyn Peake's novel 'Gormenghast' and giving up as I felt that the descriptions became an end in themselves rather than being properly integrated into the narrative. This is largely my view of Simpson (or at least his later symphonies). My loss - as I know how much others enjoy his music. I must listen to symphonies 2 and 4 next as others here rate them highly. I enjoyed the Nielsen Variations even less than the Symphony. Much of Simpson's work still sounds sub-Nielsen to me. Please don't feel that I have to have big tunes to appreciate a piece of music. Scores like Norgard's Symphony 1, Wordsworth's Symphony 2 and Blomdahl's Symphony 1 mean a lot to me and they are hardly full of melodies. I will persevere with Simpson however and will always be grateful for his promotion of Havergal Brian whom I consider a much greater composer.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on July 26, 2018, 01:36:42 PM
When Simpson, a man of great integrity, wrote about Bruckner and Nielsen it was invariably about 'the struggle for B flat major' or whatever (I have no understanding of the technicality of music). Simpson's Symphony 11 sounded to me like 'the struggle' for a particular key without anything else - in other words it's all structure and not much else.

After about the Symphony No.6 (SQs 7 onwards) Simpson didn't use progressive tonality so much as intervalic argument to structure his works (though the works still have a tonal argument). (Interestingly so did Rubbra in his later symphonies). You can read about this in the CD liner notes to the Hyperion series.

I love the Symphony No.11, I hear as a tribute to Holmboe, I believe that when Simpson was writing it he had heard that Homboe, whom he revered, as quite ill. It was the last orchestral work he wrote before he suffered the stroke that destroyed his creativity.

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: PerfectWagnerite on July 26, 2018, 04:48:12 PM
I was having a sort out of my CDs today and the first Robert Simpson one that I came across was of Symphony 11 and the Nielsen Variations. I was interested to see that the Symphony was not conducted by Vernon Handley but by the dedicatee, Matthew Taylor. Anyway, I played the CD this evening and I'm sorry to say that my attention wandered after a very short time. The symphony reminded me of a massive piece of scaffolding which, when removed, reveals no building - in other words, an impressive structure with no content.

Yes that is exactly how I feel but I couldn't put in in such apropos words as you. I used to have the Hyperion set. I remember Symphony #9 had a really annoying talk by Simpson regarding how his symphony was one "wedge" opening after another. The word "wedge" must have been used 50 times in the 20 minute talk. That and this rather presumptuous claim on the backcover didn't help:

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/519y2H2xPfL.jpg)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: SymphonicAddict on July 26, 2018, 07:14:56 PM
I was having a sort out of my CDs today and the first Robert Simpson one that I came across was of Symphony 11 and the Nielsen Variations. I was interested to see that the Symphony was not conducted by Vernon Handley but by the dedicatee, Matthew Taylor. Anyway, I played the CD this evening and I'm sorry to say that my attention wandered after a very short time. The symphony reminded me of a massive piece of scaffolding which, when removed, reveals no building - in other words, an impressive structure with no content. Others will disagree. I found it totally unmemorable. When Simpson, a man of great integrity, wrote about Bruckner and Nielsen it was invariably about 'the struggle for B flat major' or whatever (I have no understanding of the technicality of music). Simpson's Symphony 11 sounded to me like 'the struggle' for a particular key without anything else - in other words it's all structure and not much else. It reminded me of my attempting to read Mervyn Peake's novel 'Gormenghast' and giving up as I felt that the descriptions became an end in themselves rather than being properly integrated into the narrative. This is largely my view of Simpson (or at least his later symphonies). My loss - as I know how much others enjoy his music. I must listen to symphonies 2 and 4 next as others here rate them highly. I enjoyed the Nielsen Variations even less than the Symphony. Much of Simpson's work still sounds sub-Nielsen to me. Please don't feel that I have to have big tunes to appreciate a piece of music. Scores like Norgard's Symphony 1, Wordsworth's Symphony 2 and Blomdahl's Symphony 1 mean a lot to me and they are hardly full of melodies. I will persevere with Simpson however and will always be grateful for his promotion of Havergal Brian whom I consider a much greater composer.

Too bad Simpson's 11 didn't fulfill your expectations. Coincidentally, today I also heard that symphony finishing the cycle and I had a very different view of it than yours. The 11 is possibly his weakest one but I did find it with content, it has some exciting moments and intriguing nature, maybe Simpson often repeated the formula with some of his symphonies making them kind of similar. Overall, my favorites are the 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 26, 2018, 09:25:16 PM
After about the Symphony No.6 (SQs 7 onwards) Simpson didn't use progressive tonality so much as intervalic argument to structure his works (though the works still have a tonal argument). (Interestingly so did Rubbra in his later symphonies). You can read about this in the CD liner notes to the Hyperion series.

I love the Symphony No.11, I hear as a tribute to Holmboe, I believe that when Simpson was writing it he had heard that Homboe, whom he revered, as quite ill. It was the last orchestral work he wrote before he suffered the stroke that destroyed his creativity.

Thanks for this. Actually I preferred the second movement to the first. I think that I should try some of the earlier symphonies other than 1 and 3 which I already know and like. I'm aware how much Simpson means to others and some consider him one of the great 20th century symphonists so it is clearly my loss. I recall that in the spoken introduction to Symphony 9 Simpson talks about the structure of his music but then says something along the lines of 'none of this matters if the music does not appeal to you' and that is my experience, so far, with Symphony 11. Holmboe's music, as a whole, has much greater appeal to me and I find it more memorable.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 26, 2018, 09:31:18 PM
Too bad Simpson's 11 didn't fulfill your expectations. Coincidentally, today I also heard that symphony finishing the cycle and I had a very different view of it than yours. The 11 is possibly his weakest one but I did find it with content, it has some exciting moments and intriguing nature, maybe Simpson often repeated the formula with some of his symphonies making them kind of similar. Overall, my favorites are the 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9.
Thank you Cesar and there were some moments, especially in the second movement which appealed more to me - interesting that you consider No.11 to be the weakest - probably not a good place for me to start my re-exploration of Simpson but good to find someone else who admires Symphony 1.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 26, 2018, 09:33:49 PM
Yes that is exactly how I feel but I couldn't put in in such apropos words as you. I used to have the Hyperion set. I remember Symphony #9 had a really annoying talk by Simpson regarding how his symphony was one "wedge" opening after another. The word "wedge" must have been used 50 times in the 20 minute talk. That and this rather presumptuous claim on the backcover didn't help:

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/519y2H2xPfL.jpg)

Thank you! The notes accompanying Symphony 11 make some comparisons with Mahler and Sibelius which I did not really see myself. With Simpson I often feel that the sum is less than the parts.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on July 27, 2018, 05:17:04 AM
I was having a sort out of my CDs today and the first Robert Simpson one that I came across was of Symphony 11 and the Nielsen Variations. I was interested to see that the Symphony was not conducted by Vernon Handley but by the dedicatee, Matthew Taylor. Anyway, I played the CD this evening and I'm sorry to say that my attention wandered after a very short time. The symphony reminded me of a massive piece of scaffolding which, when removed, reveals no building - in other words, an impressive structure with no content. Others will disagree. I found it totally unmemorable. When Simpson, a man of great integrity, wrote about Bruckner and Nielsen it was invariably about 'the struggle for B flat major' or whatever (I have no understanding of the technicality of music). Simpson's Symphony 11 sounded to me like 'the struggle' for a particular key without anything else - in other words it's all structure and not much else. It reminded me of my attempting to read Mervyn Peake's novel 'Gormenghast' and giving up as I felt that the descriptions became an end in themselves rather than being properly integrated into the narrative. This is largely my view of Simpson (or at least his later symphonies). My loss - as I know how much others enjoy his music. I must listen to symphonies 2 and 4 next as others here rate them highly. I enjoyed the Nielsen Variations even less than the Symphony. Much of Simpson's work still sounds sub-Nielsen to me. Please don't feel that I have to have big tunes to appreciate a piece of music. Scores like Norgard's Symphony 1, Wordsworth's Symphony 2 and Blomdahl's Symphony 1 mean a lot to me and they are hardly full of melodies. I will persevere with Simpson however and will always be grateful for his promotion of Havergal Brian whom I consider a much greater composer.

Why you little *(#@*!.  Actually, I agree with you.  Simpson seems to be a music scholar/musicologist who wrote music.  He generally understands what the material needs structurally or architecturally, just doesn't have the talent to pull it off which is fine.  Some composers have a lot of talent but lack the skill/architecture (perhaps Mussorgsky). 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: JohnP on July 27, 2018, 07:27:01 AM
Well!, Steve Schwartz at Classical Net believes that Simpson stands at least level with Shostakovich and his string quartets bear comparison with Beethoven and Bartok. Vandermolen and relm1 don’t think he’s up to much. Fascinating....http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/h/hyp66905a.php
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 27, 2018, 08:26:33 AM
Well!, Steve Schwartz at Classical Net believes that Simpson stands at least level with Shostakovich and his string quartets bear comparison with Beethoven and Bartok. Vandermolen and relm1 don’t think he’s up to much. Fascinating....http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/h/hyp66905a.php

Isn't that the fascination of this forum, if taken the right way, the differences of opinion? We live in an age of increasing intolerance but, as a rule, I do not find that here.
 :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 27, 2018, 08:28:45 AM
Why you little *(#@*!.  Actually, I agree with you.  Simpson seems to be a music scholar/musicologist who wrote music.  He generally understands what the material needs structurally or architecturally, just doesn't have the talent to pull it off which is fine.  Some composers have a lot of talent but lack the skill/architecture (perhaps Mussorgsky).

Haha! When I read your opening sentence I wondered whether my wife had joined the forum and was commenting on my CD collection.  :D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: CRCulver on July 27, 2018, 08:31:29 AM
Well!, Steve Schwartz at Classical Net believes that Simpson stands at least level with Shostakovich and his string quartets bear comparison with Beethoven and Bartok.

Does he still believe that? I have never heard a note of Simpson (though, as a Holmboe fan, I have been meaning to), but over my years in the classical music community I have repeatedly seen people acquire a small Simpson collection, gush about his music to others, and then admit a few months or years later that his music wasn’t so great after all.

We all do that with various composers (I still cringe that I gave Brodsgaard’s Piano Concerto a 5-star review on Amazon, WTF was I thinking?), but with Simpson it seems to be more common than with others.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on July 27, 2018, 08:39:08 AM
Haha! When I read your opening sentence I wondered whether my wife had joined the forum and was commenting on my CD collection.  :D
;D
Re 'tolerance': you cannot force someone to like a certain composer or a certain piece of music. Even within an oeuvre you have your preferences. I enjoy this Simpson discussion very much. I admire the man, I have read his books, I like a few of his symphonies (1, 3, 9), but I have always felt his focus on process was always greater than the force of the ideas he uses to shape that process in the first place... My well-known favourite, Havergal Brian, is intellectually and architectonically perhaps Simpson's inferior. But he is a far more compelling, gripping and humanly moving symphonist to these ears.
P.S. I agree with Jeffrey's 'scaffolding' argument.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on July 27, 2018, 08:45:10 AM
Does he still believe that? I have never heard a note of Simpson (though, as a Holmboe fan, I have been meaning to), but over my years in the classical music community I have repeatedly seen people acquire a small Simpson collection, gush about his music to others, and then admit a few months or years later that his music wasn’t so great after all.

I first heard Simpson in the form of the 9th Symphony, back in 1998 or so. Re-listened a couple of years ago, and was pleased to discover it still held up, even if it didn't feel quite as revelatory as the first time.

I have kind of lost interest in some of his symphonies (particularly 3 & 5), but a number of other works I got to know long ago still sound good to me. I am wondering if perhaps his quartets are a greater achievement?

We all do that with various composers (I still cringe that I gave Brodsgaard’s Piano Concerto a 5-star review on Amazon, WTF was I thinking?), but with Simpson it seems to be more common than with others.

Maybe - it's hard to tell, there aren't a lot of Simpson listeners out there to begin with.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: SymphonicAddict on July 27, 2018, 01:18:53 PM
Regarding the string quartets, for me, they are much less compelling than the symphonies. They hardly ever hold my attention, I feel them rather tough. Possibly others could enjoy them.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on July 27, 2018, 01:48:50 PM
I wonder how useful it is for people to keep on posting and saying they find Simpson's music disappointing. What is the point of saying this?

When I say I find Simpson endlessly compelling, and amongst the greatest music ever written, then I hope I am encouraging people to listen to it, and hope that some of my comments provide further information to help people to understand the music.

But to say you don't find his music interesting is only possibly to deter people from listening, which is what you want to avoid.

There are many composers I think are terrible composers and hugely overrated, but I don't go to those threads telling people this (I might make a few throw-away remarks to that effect in other threads). I know you can't make people like a given composer's work, but equally you can't make them dislike an oeuvre.

I commend those composers I like and when I post here I hope I provide further information to people about them. The only time I ever criticise works is in the context of other works by the same composer (ie why is Nielsen's Violin Concerto so awful compared to his other works, why was the normally impeccable Holmboe infected with a fundamentalist Christian brainstorm when he wrote Requiem for Nietzsche? and so forth).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on July 27, 2018, 03:30:05 PM
Well!, Steve Schwartz at Classical Net believes that Simpson stands at least level with Shostakovich and his string quartets bear comparison with Beethoven and Bartok. Vandermolen and relm1 don’t think he’s up to much. Fascinating....http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/h/hyp66905a.php

Well, Steve is an expert at English Literature and Computer Science so I will defer to him on those topics but I have a masters in music composition.  :P
   
Steve Schwartz bio:
    Oberlin, AB (1968);
    University of Michigan, MA (1969)
    University of Michigan, Ph.D. (1974); all degrees in English Literature.
    University of New Orleans, B.S. (1981) in computer science.

Seriously no disrespect intended...he probably makes 100k more than me per year (at least).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 27, 2018, 10:08:23 PM
I wonder how useful it is for people to keep on posting and saying they find Simpson's music disappointing. What is the point of saying this?

When I say I find Simpson endlessly compelling, and amongst the greatest music ever written, then I hope I am encouraging people to listen to it, and hope that some of my comments provide further information to help people to understand the music.

But to say you don't find his music interesting is only possibly to deter people from listening, which is what you want to avoid.

There are many composers I think are terrible composers and hugely overrated, but I don't go to those threads telling people this (I might make a few throw-away remarks to that effect in other threads). I know you can't make people like a given composer's work, but equally you can't make them dislike an oeuvre.

I commend those composers I like and when I post here I hope I provide further information to people about them. The only time I ever criticise works is in the context of other works by the same composer (ie why is Nielsen's Violin Concerto so awful compared to his other works, why was the normally impeccable Holmboe infected with a fundamentalist Christian brainstorm when he wrote Requiem for Nietzsche? and so forth).

I see your point although speaking for myself I made it clear that I like Simpson's symphonies 1 and 3 and want to hear 2 and 4. I usually write enthusiastically about music I like but it is good, I believe, to have a range of view as here. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' about it and actually I think I'm missing out by not getting 'into' works like Simpson's 9th Symphony which some consider a towering masterpiece. On Amazon 99% of the time I review music which I really like and to draw attention to it, especially, if it's not well known (Stanley Bate, Miaskovsky etc) but occasionally I think a work is over-hyped and I might write a more negative review (Christopher Gunning's symphonies for example) as I think that others might be mislead by over-enthusiastic (in my opinion) reviews and be disappointed if they splash out their money to purchase something, as I have, based on misleading reviews. As for here I think that it's good to have a range of views, which is largely, I think, what we get.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on July 28, 2018, 01:13:18 AM
The cd of symphonies 1 & 8 arrived here today! I listened to the Second late last night,after two pints of lager,and I must admit I did rather enjoy it;although,it is possible the lager helped!! (I didn't have a spoon full of sugar,to hand! ;D) My favourite parts of the symphony were the quieter bits. I can't help thinking of his interest in astronomy,here. Those moments of stillness,and quietude,in Simpson's music,are the bits I like most. That said,while I can hear the "Nielsen without the tunes" jibe in allot of his orchestration (it does often sound like Nielsen,without the tunes! ::) ;D) yet,I do rather like the sounds his orchestration makes. The woodwind,particularly. The Fourth strikes me as a gruffer,nut to chew on. It's also noisier,and you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes ("You AMAZE me Holmes!" ;D) to hear the Beethoven influence. I'm going to need another listen a bit later.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: "Harry" on July 28, 2018, 02:51:24 AM
The cd of symphonies 1 & 8 arrived here today! I listened to the Second late last night,after two pints of lager,and I must admit I did rather enjoy it;although,it is possible the lager helped!! (I didn't have a spoon full of sugar,to hand! ;D) My favourite parts of the symphony were the quieter bits. I can't help thinking of his interest in astronomy,here. Those moments of stillness,and quietude,in Simpson's music,are the bits I like most. That said,while I can hear the "Nielsen without the tunes" jibe in allot of his orchestration (it does often sound like Nielsen,without the tunes! ::) ;D) yet,I do rather like the sounds his orchestration makes. The woodwind,particularly. The Fourth strikes me as a gruffer,nut to chew on. It's also noisier,and you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes ("You AMAZE me Holmes!" ;D) to hear the Beethoven influence. I'm going to need another listen a bit later.

You approached Simpson's works in the right way, two pints of lager is an absolute minimum, but okay. I totally agree with your assessment, and assure you that even the loudest parts of his symphonies will embrace you like the cuddle of a babe! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on July 28, 2018, 03:18:06 AM
 :) I've been thinking,going by some of our taste in composers;if you like Robert Simpson,surely I must like him?!! I'm going to put on the cd of 1 & 8,shortly. This will be my first ever listen. Later on,another listen to No 4! And maybe (probably! ::) ;D) some more lager!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 28, 2018, 03:24:34 AM
:) I've been thinking,going by some of our taste in composers;if you like Robert Simpson,surely I must like him?!! I'm going to put on the cd of 1 & 8,shortly. This will be my first ever listen. Later on,another listen to No 4! And maybe (probably! ::) ;D) some more lager!

I enjoyed your posting (as I always do) - I'll be interested to hear your views of Symphony 1 - my favourite of those I know.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on July 28, 2018, 04:46:52 AM
I wonder how useful it is for people to keep on posting and saying they find Simpson's music disappointing. What is the point of saying this?

When I say I find Simpson endlessly compelling, and amongst the greatest music ever written, then I hope I am encouraging people to listen to it, and hope that some of my comments provide further information to help people to understand the music.

But to say you don't find his music interesting is only possibly to deter people from listening, which is what you want to avoid.

There are many composers I think are terrible composers and hugely overrated, but I don't go to those threads telling people this (I might make a few throw-away remarks to that effect in other threads). I know you can't make people like a given composer's work, but equally you can't make them dislike an oeuvre.

I commend those composers I like and when I post here I hope I provide further information to people about them. The only time I ever criticise works is in the context of other works by the same composer (ie why is Nielsen's Violin Concerto so awful compared to his other works, why was the normally impeccable Holmboe infected with a fundamentalist Christian brainstorm when he wrote Requiem for Nietzsche? and so forth).

Well, this is a forum and people can and do have different opinions.  There is nothing wrong with having a different opinion.  I for one have no interest if people listen to Simpson or avoid him but I do enjoy engaging on the topic with people who are informed and might have a different opinion than I do hence a forum discussion.  Sometimes a composers work clicks with a listener and one can't really debate that subjectively (you like it or you don't) and sometimes people make an objective case for a composer which can and does invite debate.  No harm or disrespect is meant, but disagreements are likely.  I think one reason why it is entirely fair to criticize Simpson is he himself was a harsh critic of some very good composers who in same cases were superior to his capabilities. 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on July 28, 2018, 01:52:21 PM
"I think one reason why it is entirely fair to criticize Simpson is he himself was a harsh critic of some very good composers who in same cases were superior to his capabilities. "

Who? I say this not in a hostile way but out of genuine interest, because I know his writings quite well and I can't think of an example.

I just want to see if I can stop this thread turning into the Milhaud thread, where you're not allowed to say anything nice about Milhaud.

Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on July 28, 2018, 03:06:26 PM
"I think one reason why it is entirely fair to criticize Simpson is he himself was a harsh critic of some very good composers who in same cases were superior to his capabilities. "

Who? I say this not in a hostile way but out of genuine interest, because I know his writings quite well and I can't think of an example.

I just want to see if I can stop this thread turning into the Milhaud thread, where you're not allowed to say anything nice about Milhaud.

He disliked Rachmaninoff for example siting it as overly romantic and lacking form.  I consider Rachmaninoff to be extremely sublime structurally most specifically in his Symphonic Dances but most works of his I cant fault in this area. 
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on July 28, 2018, 09:13:10 PM
I share Simpson’s view of Rachmaniov  ;)
Seriously though, did he say thisa throw away remark or as a considered opinion? I find him very diplomatic in his writings... and mow i think about it in The Symphony, a Pelican Book he edited he wrote highly of Rach S1 (though not of Ss2 & 3).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on July 28, 2018, 09:44:58 PM
Rach 1 is tremendous. 2 and 3 are lesser works, though I like 2 a lot. I am with RS.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 28, 2018, 11:10:18 PM
Rach 1 is tremendous. 2 and 3 are lesser works, though I like 2 a lot. I am with RS.

Yes, I love Rachmaninov's First Symphony (part of iwhich was used as a BBC Current events TV programme theme tune decades ago). I enjoy 2 and especially 3 but 1 is my favourite.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on July 29, 2018, 02:12:17 AM
Well,after a bit of lager last night I listened to Robert Simpson's Eighth. I was particularly interested in hearing it,since vandermolen disliked it so much. Well,the booze might have helped,but to my surprise I loved it. Yes,I did have some difficulty with following his argument,or train of thought (which might just be because I'm thick?! ::) ;D) but what grabbed me was the sounds coming from the orchestra. The sonorities,the,sometimes,almost bird like,chirruping of his woodwind (very Nielsenesque,but nothing wrong with that) and I don't mean in the pictorial sense. Above all,the thing that most impressed me the most,was his use of the brass section of the orchestra. I think some of the sounds I heard were some of the amazing I have ever heard coming from a symphony orchestra. The sounds are so sonorous and deep,they seem to blaze and boom. I'm not too keen on using this word,it sounds so teenage ("It's awesome,man!") but that is the word that came to mind. In terms of the sound world,and all that booming brass;it did make me think of the Ninth symphony,which I have known for some years. Yet,I think I prefer the Eighth because the score is more varied. I also liked the quieter moments. Simpson's moment of repose are particularly compelling,to my ears. Those moments of stillness,with just the string section,or plaintive,chirruping from the woodwind,which I referred to earlier. But his use of brass really makes this symphony stand out for me. Not sure about the underlying thread that holds it all together,or where some of it was going;but with such amazing noises coming from the brass section,who cares?! Oh,and one really astonishing bit where the brass seem to go into a mad,stamping rhythm,that repeats over and over again. I just wish I was a trained musician,so I could convey what I was hearing without sounding like a berk! :-[ ::) ;D

As to the First symphony. I was so taken by the eighth,which I played first (for the above reason) I didn't have as much time to spend on the First. That said,what I heard justifies all the positive reactions of those who admire this symphony. I need to have a separate listen to this symphony,now,before I can really pass comment. But it struck me that a symphony that good should be more widely performed. Again,I concentrated so much of my attention on the eighth. I need to listen to the first,'on it's own'.

NB: Some of his use of brass in the eighth symphony actually evoked a very unlikely bed fellow,Jon Leifs (those deep,booming sounds!)!!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 29, 2018, 05:08:47 AM
Well,after a bit of lager last night I listened to Robert Simpson's Eighth. I was particularly interested in hearing it,since vandermolen disliked it so much. Well,the booze might have helped,but to my surprise I loved it. Yes,I did have some difficulty with following his argument,or train of thought (which might just be because I'm thick?! ::) ;D) but what grabbed me was the sounds coming from the orchestra. The sonorities,the,sometimes,almost bird like,chirruping of his woodwind (very Nielsenesque,but nothing wrong with that) and I don't mean in the pictorial sense. Above all,the thing that most impressed me the most,was his use of the brass section of the orchestra. I think some of the sounds I heard were some of the amazing I have ever heard coming from a symphony orchestra. The sounds are so sonorous and deep,they seem to blaze and boom. I'm not too keen on using this word,it sounds so teenage ("It's awesome,man!") but that is the word that came to mind. In terms of the sound world,and all that booming brass;it did make me think of the Ninth symphony,which I have known for some years. Yet,I think I prefer the Eighth because the score is more varied. I also liked the quieter moments. Simpson's moment of repose are particularly compelling,to my ears. Those moments of stillness,with just the string section,or plaintive,chirruping from the woodwind,which I referred to earlier. But his use of brass really makes this symphony stand out for me. Not sure about the underlying thread that holds it all together,or where some of it was going;but with such amazing noises coming from the brass section,who cares?! Oh,and one really astonishing bit where the brass seem to go into a mad,stamping rhythm,that repeats over and over again. I just wish I was a trained musician,so I could convey what I was hearing without sounding like a berk! :-[ ::) ;D

As to the First symphony. I was so taken by the eighth,which I played first (for the above reason) I didn't have as much time to spend on the First. That said,what I heard justifies all the positive reactions of those who admire this symphony. I need to have a separate listen to this symphony,now,before I can really pass comment. But it struck me that a symphony that good should be more widely performed. Again,I concentrated so much of my attention on the eighth. I need to listen to the first,'on it's own'.

NB: Some of his use of brass in the eighth symphony actually evoked a very unlikely bed fellow,Jon Leifs (those deep,booming sounds!)!!

I'm not sure that I've ever heard Symphony 8! It was Symphony 11 I was writing about above.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on July 29, 2018, 06:51:31 AM
Well,after a bit of lager last night I listened to Robert Simpson's Eighth.

I think the scherzo and the slow mvt. of the 8th are excellent, some of Simpson's best symphonic writing. However, the first and last mvts. are not quite at that level, and I do think the finale goes on too long. Still, the 8th is quite an achievement.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on July 30, 2018, 02:37:52 AM
I will download 'Too Many Christmas Trees' on Amazon Video. I listened to Vernon Handley's recording of Simpson's First Symphony yesterday with much pleasure although I turned off No.8 after a few minutes. I read the other day that Boult's recording of Symphony 1 is superior in every way other than recording but I have enjoyed both versions enormously. I will have another listen to Symphony No.9 soon.
You listened to a few minutes of it!! :o ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: relm1 on July 30, 2018, 04:55:53 AM
Malcolm Macdonald told me once that Robert Simpson was very displeased with the Vernon Handley cycle.  I believe he preferred the Boult interpretations but Handley was the new digital cycle.  If you can find Boult's recording of No. 1, I would be interested in hearing it.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Sergeant Rock on July 30, 2018, 05:42:49 AM
NB: Some of his use of brass in the eighth symphony actually evoked a very unlikely bed fellow,Jon Leifs (those deep,booming sounds!)!!

I hear some Havergal in certain parts too, for example, starting at 1:43 in the Scherzo (low brass against high winds). Reminds me of the Gothic's scherzo (the Vivace movement).

Sarge
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on July 31, 2018, 01:20:05 AM
You listened to a few minutes of it!! :o ;D

So I did! You are quite right. Apologies (I seem to be apologising to lots of people today  8))
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on August 05, 2018, 01:10:34 AM
Yesterday afternoon,I listened through symphonies 1-5,followed by 8 & 9 (I haven't 6,7,10 & 11,yet!!). I was exercising while listening to these symphonies and thinking it was strange workout music! ::) I also remember reading in an interview with Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead) that he was exercising to Birtwistle's Earth Dances. He died not long after!from a heart attack! I was thinking,oh dear;and Robert Simpson's music can be pretty strenuous!! However,It does seem that Jerry Garcia had a number of issues that led to his early death. So it wasn't Bitwistle's fault (or Garcia,for exercising to it?!!) But maybe,some Delius next time?!! ::) ;D Anyway!!!! ::) I will admit that I do find the thread of Simpson's argument,a little difficult to follow,at times. I don't find the inexorable purpose and logic of say,Havergal Brian,in some of the symphonies. No's 2,4 & 8,are a case in point. That said,I do like the sound of his orchestration. His use of the brass section really is 'quite something',as the American's say. I also like his woodwind,which does remind me of Nielsen;but no harm in that,imho! I find the Fifth one of the easiest to follow,after the third;and I'm surprised that vandermolen has such difficulty with it. I love the stillness of that opening,and the way the symphony just seems to run out of energy at the conclusion,and go back to the stillness of the opening. There is an unfolding sense of purpose and logic there,which I do enjoy and admire. Simpson's interest in astronomy definitely springs to mind. There's something almost cosmic about it's birth and subsequent disintegration. I also enjoyed the Ninth,this time around. I had no difficulty in following it. I think it's a stunning creation. Maybe,a little too clever for it's own good,in some ways. It lacks the warmth of a Beethoven or Nielsen;but it's powerful statement. I particularly like the moment when it launches into that fast,lurching (lolloping) section (scherzo). (Which reminds of another favourite 'bit'. The finale to the Second symphony). I must admit,I didn't listen to the talk at the end. Once is enough,imho. With due respect to the late composer;if Hyperion reissue the cd,I think it would be better if they just released the symphony on it's own. Imho,the music speaks (quite adequately) for itself,and needs no such help!! ::) ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on August 05, 2018, 01:55:35 AM
Yesterday afternoon,I listened through symphonies 1-5,followed by 8 & 9 (I haven't 6,7,10 & 11,yet!!). I was exercising while listening to these symphonies and thinking it was strange workout music! ::) I also remember reading in an interview with Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead) that he was exercising to Birtwistle's Earth Dances. He died not long after!from a heart attack! I was thinking,oh dear;and Robert Simpson's music can be pretty strenuous!! However,It does seem that Jerry Garcia had a number of issues that led to his early death. So it wasn't Bitwistle's fault (or Garcia,for exercising to it?!!) But maybe,some Delius next time?!! ::) ;D Anyway!!!! ::) I will admit that I do find the thread of Simpson's argument,a little difficult to follow,at times. I don't find the inexorable purpose and logic of say,Havergal Brian,in some of the symphonies. No's 2,4 & 8,are a case in point. That said,I do like the sound of his orchestration. His use of the brass section really is 'quite something',as the American's say. I also like his woodwind,which does remind me of Nielsen;but no harm in that,imho! I find the Fifth one of the easiest to follow,after the third;and I'm surprised that vandermolen has such difficulty with it. I love the stillness of that opening,and the way the symphony just seems to run out of energy at the conclusion,and go back to the stillness of the opening. There is an unfolding sense of purpose and logic there,which I do enjoy and admire. Simpson's interest in astronomy definitely springs to mind. There's something almost cosmic about it's birth and subsequent disintegration. I also enjoyed the Ninth,this time around. I had no difficulty in following it. I think it's a stunning creation. Maybe,a little too clever for it's own good,in some ways. It lacks the warmth of a Beethoven or Nielsen;but it's powerful statement. I particularly like the moment when it launches into that fast,lurching (lolloping) section (scherzo). (Which reminds of another favourite 'bit'. The finale to the Second symphony). I must admit,I didn't listen to the talk at the end. Once is enough,imho. With due respect to the late composer;if Hyperion reissue the cd,I think it would be better if they just released the symphony on it's own. Imho,the music speaks (quite adequately) for itself,and needs no such help!! ::) ;D
Interesting observations, as always, cilgwyn. I must have another go with Symphony 5 which I think is on a Hyperion CD with Symphony 3, which I do admire and enjoy.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on August 05, 2018, 03:28:55 AM
I hear some Havergal in certain parts too, for example, starting at 1:43 in the Scherzo (low brass against high winds). Reminds me of the Gothic's scherzo (the Vivace movement).

Sarge
Not sure where I heard Jon Leifs;but there is,certainly,some deep brass there?! I do hear a bit of Havergal Brian in part of the eighth. Brass with percussive,marching sounds,which evoked sounds from Brian's eighth.
Regarding the Fifth! Of course,I was merely encouraging vandermolen to have yet another shot! Do I think it will alter his opinion? Answering myself ( ???),probably not?!! ;D The Ninth seeming to build up in a blazing arc,or monolith,of sound,with a fast bit (referenced in my previous post). It's not too difficult to follow,imo;but if it doesn't appeal,it doesn't appeal! You can't force yourself to like or enjoy something,if you don't!! The Fifth strikes me as following a fairly straightforward trajectory,even for a layman,like me. The sound world also seems to be more varied,than that of the monoloithic ninth,so I thought it might be worth another shot.......even if it's your last?!! ;D

It strikes me that even if you don't warm to these symphonies,they are an interesting puzzle. His command of the orchestra is certainly impressive. His use of the brass section and woodwind makes some intriguing and impressive sounds. You think to yourself? What is it about this that doesn't appeal to me? You might think,it's Nielsen without the tunes,as some people have described. But then,there's nothing wrong with being influenced by another composer,and you enjoy others who are?! You decide the music is cold,lacking in warmth. But then there are other composers,or compositions,you could describe as cold,but which you do enjoy or find interesting! And then there is the question of the scaffolding! Aha! It's the scaffolding?!! ;D And so it goes on!!!

As to me?! I think I'm going to put some on again,in a minute?! Must check out some of that "scaffolding" again!! ::) ;D
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: kyjo on August 05, 2018, 09:30:42 AM
There’s one section in Simpson’s 5th I really like - the brief, mysterious fourth movement (Canzone II). Other than that, I find it typically tough going...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on August 06, 2018, 12:48:58 AM
 ;D I put the Fifth symphony on,a bit later,after typing that post. I was thinking some of it is quite frantic in places. Phew!! ??? ;D But I do like the way it all seems to explode in this huge,almost manic (hyperactive?!) burst of energy,then fizzle out gradually (or disintegrate,might be a better word?) leaving just that stillness you hear at the beginning!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on August 06, 2018, 02:36:50 PM
Yesterday afternoon,I listened through symphonies 1-5,followed by 8 & 9 (I haven't 6,7,10 & 11,yet!!). I was exercising while listening to these symphonies and thinking it was strange workout music! ...

Funnily enough exercising is the time of day when i listen to most music. I do an hour of tai chi/kung fu most days, starting slow and working up to energetic. The moves i do are from different internal martial arts which means they are based on circulating Qi around the body. This nicely intersects with my aesthetic beliefs about music derived from Nielsen’s comments about music having a current rumning through it and Simpson’s elaboration of this discussing Nielsen and others.
So when i am listening the music’s flow must flow with my exercises, if it doesn’t i change to something else and diagnose the music as without flow.
And of course most early music through to classical has this flow, thereafter only the masters, culminating in Brian, Holmboe and Simpson.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: JohnP on August 06, 2018, 05:31:22 PM
;D I put the Fifth symphony on,a bit later,after typing that post. I was thinking some of it is quite frantic in places. Phew!! ??? ;D But I do like the way it all seems to explode in this huge,almost manic (hyperactive?!) burst of energy,then fizzle out gradually (or disintegrate,might be a better word?) leaving just that stillness you hear at the beginning!

I read Simpson’s description of that stillness as being like the part of yourself that remains quiet and uninvolved and watches you when you’re upset
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on August 07, 2018, 01:44:12 AM
Funnily enough exercising is the time of day when i listen to most music. I do an hour of tai chi/kung fu most days, starting slow and working up to energetic. The moves i do are from different internal martial arts which means they are based on circulating Qi around the body. This nicely intersects with my aesthetic beliefs about music derived from Nielsen’s comments about music having a current rumning through it and Simpson’s elaboration of this discussing Nielsen and others.
So when i am listening the music’s flow must flow with my exercises, if it doesn’t i change to something else and diagnose the music as without flow.
And of course most early music through to classical has this flow, thereafter only the masters, culminating in Brian, Holmboe and Simpson.
I'm starting to think Simpson's symphonies are actually great workout music!! ;D I must admit I've been using weights. A cast iron barbell and dumbells! I'm a bit of a coffee-holic,and I like the way the sets allow you to swig coffee in between!!!

At this point,I have to assume that I do like what I'm hearing. I think these symphonies are very interesting and I do like the sound of his orchestration. The brass and woodwind,in particular. The more I listen,the more I want to hear! In fact,I think I'm probably with you on this composer,calyptorhynchus?!! :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on August 07, 2018, 12:21:36 PM
I’m sure i’ve said this before but Simpson’s works for brass band are very approachable. As they are for brass band they are more tonal than his later orchestral works. To my mind they are even more organic than his orchestral
works because the medium is more homogenous; in the symphonies I hear the processes of the life being depicted, in these works I hear the ensemble as a living creature.

BTW does anyone know of other composers who wrote for bb? I know about Elgar’s works for bb and Malcolm Arnold’s, any others?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on August 08, 2018, 12:09:43 AM
I’m sure i’ve said this before but Simpson’s works for brass band are very approachable. As they are for brass band they are more tonal than his later orchestral works. To my mind they are even more organic than his orchestral
works because the medium is more homogenous; in the symphonies I hear the processes of the life being depicted, in these works I hear the ensemble as a living creature.

BTW does anyone know of other composers who wrote for bb? I know about Elgar’s works for bb and Malcolm Arnold’s, any others?

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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on August 08, 2018, 12:18:42 AM
I listened to Symphony 9 again last night. It has a sombre integrity about it which is impressive and the atmosphere of the work stayed with me afterwards. I much preferred it to Symphony 11. I'm inclined to agree with Johan (JZH) that symphonies 1,3 and 9 are the best ones, although I need to listen to some of the others.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn on August 08, 2018, 01:37:45 AM
You think you might actually be beginning to like it?!! ??? :o ;D

Interestingly,after I bought the cd,of the Ninth,again,a few weeks ago (I did have the cd once,but got rid of it!!) it was the one symphony of the four I listened to,that I didn't enjoy! Last time I put it on,I did enjoy the experience;although I skipped the 'talk'. Once is quite enough,and I feel the music speaks for itself!!
I'm starting to think that Simpson's symphonies have finally "clicked" with me (or maybe,it's the knee bone connected to thigh bone?!! ??? ;D)?!! Seriously,I am finding myself rather enthralled. I find some of them a bit difficult to follow,unlike say,Brian or Jones,but I love the sound of his brass and woodwind,in particular. And the fact they are a bit difficult to follow,but not too progressive,or dissonant (ie outside my musical comfort zone,I might say?) is part of the challenge,and an incentive to listen harder and more. I think his use of brass does mark him out from allot of other British composers. Arnold is an obvious comparison. His use of the brass is one of his signature characteristics (that "whooping" sound). It really does mark him out from the crowd. Holst's suites for Brass Band are magnificent,and amongst my favourite works by British composers. Also,I suppose Derek Bourgeois might be? I'm not too familiar with his work,but he has some admirers over at the Art Music Forum;and I know he has a reputation in some circles for his music for Brass. I quite like his 'Wine' Symphony,incidentally;and it probably deserves a commercial recording. Even if you don't like it,he deserves kudos for the idea! (If I was a composer I'd love to write a Beer or lager symphony!!! ::) ;D Although,I'd probably end up being too p***** to finish it (like Mussorgsky!!)) Going back to Arnold,I was looking at the 'adverts' for their other Arnold cd's,and thinking I wouldn't mind adding the Arnold on Brass cd to my collection. And you get him conducting the Padstow Lifeboat,I believe?! What more incentive?!!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on August 08, 2018, 02:00:10 AM
BTW does anyone know of other composers who wrote for bb? I know about Elgar’s works for bb and Malcolm Arnold’s, any others?
George Lloyd's Tenth Symphony is for brass band.

In the second half of the 90s I listened to Simpson in a very thorough fashion, making notes about the symphonies I listened to. Those are all in Dutch, however. If I find the time, I'll try and translate them...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: krummholz on August 08, 2018, 05:13:23 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: amw 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: cilgwyn 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: krummholz 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!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: arpeggio 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus 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
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: krummholz 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!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: André 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 on August 06, 2019, 08:36:44 AM
The booklet note for No. 2 puts it better than I ever will, so:

Quote
"...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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J 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?
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus 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

 ;)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: krummholz 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: CRCulver 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus 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...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Symphonic Addict 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Mirror Image 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Christo 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.  :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen 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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Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: krummholz 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Christo 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 )
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: André 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 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.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vers la flamme on April 11, 2020, 12:15:36 PM
Bump for a composer I know almost nothing about...

Anyone listening to Simpson lately? I ordered a CD with the 9th symphony and I'm excited to check it out. I like the idea of "abstract, intellectual symphonies" coming from the postwar western world. Excited to check it out.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: André on April 11, 2020, 12:23:23 PM
See reply # 406 for an insightful post. Useful suggestions, too.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: J.Z. Herrenberg on April 11, 2020, 12:24:15 PM
Haven't been listening to him lately. I did buy a biography about him, though, which I'll read in the near future. As for the Ninth, you can't go wrong there. I think it's a terrific piece. I feel privileged to have seen the original score, in London, when I was there in 1986. Martin Anderson, of Toccata Press, had it in his office at the Institute of Economic Affairs, where he was gainfully employed... I knew him through the Havergal Brian Society and came to collect one of Toccata's first publications. I remember looking at the opening, and Martin saying: 'Always very motivic, Bob'...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Christo on April 11, 2020, 12:28:30 PM
Haven't been listening to him lately. I did buy a biography about him, though, which I'll read in the near future. As for the Ninth, you can't go wrong there. I think it's a terrific piece. I feel privileged to have seen the original score, in London, when I was there in 1986. Martin Anderson, of Toccata Press, had it in his office at the Institute of Economic Affairs, where he was gainfully employed... I knew him through the Havergal Brian Society and came to collect one of Toccata's first publications. I remember looking at the opening, and Martin saying: 'Always very motivic, Bob'...

What a story. But Martin was right: it is.  ???
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Madiel on April 11, 2020, 05:42:09 PM
Now that I'm familiar with Nielsen I might try Simpson again.

The chief barriers are probably 1: reports that the one readily available box of the symphonies is not that great compared to some other obscure performances, and 2: I'm interested in the chamber music but as it's all on Hyperion that means it's not on streaming and so options beyond hunting down and buying the discs are a bit limited. iTunes? Not sure what the cost is.

My records indicate that for most of the symphonies I last listened to them in 2013 or 2014, with one outlier in 2018. So it'll be interesting to see if my opinions have changed.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Ratliff on April 11, 2020, 06:36:27 PM
I'm interested in the chamber music but as it's all on Hyperion that means it's not on streaming and so options beyond hunting down and buying the discs are a bit limited. iTunes? Not sure what the cost is.

You can't stream but you can buy lossless downloads on the Hyperion web site.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Madiel on April 11, 2020, 06:40:08 PM
You can't stream but you can buy lossless downloads on the Hyperion web site.

Yes, but as we're talking about music that I don't know whether I'd like it or not, I'd prefer not to be buying just yet. Plus I always prefer buying a CD if one is available.

EDIT: It turns out Hyperion themselves have put some longer samples up on Youtube so I'll try those. But symphony re-listening first.

SECOND EDIT: And someone else has put other, older recordings of some of the symphonies up on Youtube as well. Hmm...
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 on April 11, 2020, 11:44:02 PM
Bump for a composer I know almost nothing about...

Anyone listening to Simpson lately? I ordered a CD with the 9th symphony and I'm excited to check it out. I like the idea of "abstract, intellectual symphonies" coming from the postwar western world. Excited to check it out.

The only ones I'm missing now among the symphonies are 6, 7, 10 & 11. This is without question the most exciting symphony cycle I've discovered in a number of years. I listened to the Ninth again yesterday.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on April 12, 2020, 12:27:43 AM
I listened to No.3 recently (Horenstein) and really enjoyed its gritty power and searching quality (for me anyway).
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vers la flamme on April 12, 2020, 04:22:26 AM
Haven't been listening to him lately. I did buy a biography about him, though, which I'll read in the near future. As for the Ninth, you can't go wrong there. I think it's a terrific piece. I feel privileged to have seen the original score, in London, when I was there in 1986. Martin Anderson, of Toccata Press, had it in his office at the Institute of Economic Affairs, where he was gainfully employed... I knew him through the Havergal Brian Society and came to collect one of Toccata's first publications. I remember looking at the opening, and Martin saying: 'Always very motivic, Bob'...

Ah, that's awesome. "Very motivic" lines up with how I understand his music. It appears he approached a Beethovenian level of obsession with motivic development. Quite unlike the other major English symphonists it seems.

Anyway, it's very interesting reading the comments in this thread, but I will refrain from commenting further until I get that CD and spend a bit of time with it.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 13, 2021, 04:22:47 PM
Lyrita are going to issue a CD with the BBC recordings of the premieres of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, conducted by Andrew Davis and Charles Groves respectively. Due out in early April.  :)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on February 14, 2021, 09:02:10 AM
Lyrita are going to issue a CD with the BBC recordings of the premieres of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, conducted by Andrew Davis and Charles Groves respectively. Due out in early April.  :)

I'm glad for that because only having his recordings available for purchase as downloads via Hyperion's website means that people for the most part are not even aware of him.  I've ranted about this before but Hyperion refusing to stream or keep their catalog in print on cd does a disservice to the artists (both performers and composers) that they represent.  And I can't imagine that it is a smart business model in the long run.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Roasted Swan on February 14, 2021, 09:05:38 AM
I'm glad for that because only having his recordings available for purchase as downloads via Hyperion's website means that people for the most part are not even aware of him.  I've ranted about this before but Hyperion refusing to stream or keep their catalog in print on cd does a disservice to the artists (both performers and composers) that they represent.  And I can't imagine that it is a smart business model in the long run.

According to the liner Simpson was delighted by the performance of No.5 but far less so of No.6 - apparently the orchestra only rehearsed the work for the first time the day before the concert.  Simpson revised the work after the performance as well - so this is the only recording of the "original" version of No.5....
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on February 14, 2021, 11:43:03 AM
According to the liner Simpson was delighted by the performance of No.5 but far less so of No.6 - apparently the orchestra only rehearsed the work for the first time the day before the concert.  Simpson revised the work after the performance as well - so this is the only recording of the "original" version of No.5....
Sorry did he revise 5 or 6 after the premiere?
Anyway he was even less lucky with 8. Then the orchestra due to give the premiere hadn’t rehearsed it at all, so the first performance was the first play through!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Roasted Swan on February 15, 2021, 02:37:35 AM
Sorry did he revise 5 or 6 after the premiere?
Anyway he was even less lucky with 8. Then the orchestra due to give the premiere hadn’t rehearsed it at all, so the first performance was the first play through!

According to the liner it was No.6 - I scanned the last page of the booklet so you can read what Simpson himself said.......
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: vandermolen on February 15, 2021, 04:15:33 AM
Lyrita are going to issue a CD with the BBC recordings of the premieres of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, conducted by Andrew Davis and Charles Groves respectively. Due out in early April.  :)
That's good news!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: DavidW on February 15, 2021, 07:49:40 AM
According to the liner it was No.6 - I scanned the last page of the booklet so you can read what Simpson himself said.......

Wait this is in reference to the Groves performance of 1980.  Handley's recording was in 1987 a full ten years after the symphony was written.  And since it was a non-live recording I'm sure Handley put consider thought into it and the orchestra sufficiently rehearsed the piece.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Roasted Swan on February 15, 2021, 08:51:40 AM
Wait this is in reference to the Groves performance of 1980.  Handley's recording was in 1987 a full ten years after the symphony was written.  And since it was a non-live recording I'm sure Handley put consider thought into it and the orchestra sufficiently rehearsed the piece.

Yes he is referencing the 1st public performance- this quote is from the liner for the new Lyrita disc.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on March 04, 2021, 12:45:13 AM
A member of the Robert Simpson Society has made a transcription of the score of the Third Symphony into a music program and you can follow the score whilst listening to the program's rendition of the music:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIEczEtEUkw <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIEczEtEUkw> (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIEczEtEUkw <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIEczEtEUkw>)
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on May 20, 2021, 12:27:01 PM
Robert Simpson is composer of the week on BBC Radio 3 from May 30 onwards (to mark his centenary year). Here's hoping for some performances of previously unrecorded works!
Title: Re: Robert Simpson (1921-1997)
Post by: Cato on May 20, 2021, 03:39:50 PM
Allow me to quote myself from another topic:


Quote



I had some time today and listened to the Robert Simpson Symphony #5, which can best be described as a creature created with the help of musical DNA from Charles Ives, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, and Prokofiev. 8)

Yes, that is a recommendation!
   0:)



https://www.youtube.com/v/om1AU1brhU0


Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Maestro267 on May 21, 2021, 02:24:11 AM
One of many things I enjoy about the 5th Symphony is the finale. When you see a movement that's that long, or takes up that much of a symphony's total length, usually it's a slow weighty structure like a Passacaglia or something. But this is 16 minutes of surging thrilling energetic release.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on May 27, 2021, 07:25:08 PM
Well, the BBC Composer of the Week series is very much a lite version of what could have been. I have looked at the schedules and they are relying exclusively on recorded performances, not arranging for new performances of unrecorded works or digging historic performances out of the archives  :(

However, the programmes will probably still be worth listening to.

Talking of unrecorded works I have been occupying myself with transcribing the Brass Quintet (1989) into a music program and I have produced a midi-version. Obviously a real performance would be better, however, this allows you to hear what is sounds like approximately.

On Youtube:

https://youtu.be/1BJWvgi08TQ (https://youtu.be/1BJWvgi08TQ)

Enjoy. My next project will be doing the same thing for the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of J S Bach, but don't hold your breath, there are a lot more notes in that one. ;)



Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on July 18, 2021, 04:28:19 PM
Well labours of love don't seem to take that long, I have finished transcribing Simpson’s Variations and Fugue on the Theme of J S Bach for Strings from a copy of the composer's MS.

This is an unrecorded work from 1991. Simpson finished it in April 1991 and it was his penultimate orchestral work (only the Cello Concerto was completed after this before the stroke that ended his ability to compose). It turns out to be a major work and of quite exceptional interest; it is a work for strings in the tradition of those magnificent works for strings by British composers from the Tallis Fantasia onwards.

As I started the project I heard from a conductor who is talking of performances and a recording later this year. He is going to use the score I have prepared  :D However, what this means is that I probably won't publish the midi file on Youtube for fear of killing off demand for the recording when it emerges.

However, just to whet your appetites, here are my 'sleeve notes' about this piece:

Theme, Sarabande from Cello Suite No.5 by J S Bach, A and B strains, A strain not repeated, played on solo cello.

I ♩= 50 slowish, easily recognised variation for upper strings with pizzicato cellos and basses.
II Poco piu mosso, slightly faster with melody in 1st violins, divisi 2nd violins. The melody is slightly reminiscent of Finzi (not a composer you would have thought Simpson regarded much!).
III ♩= 63, slightly quicker again; eloquent melody in the first violins.

IV Anima piu mosso, scurrying figures in the violins with pizzicato violas and cellos.
V L’istesso tempo, similar variation with pizzicato violins and scurrying in the violas and cellos.

VI Canone elastiche alla duodecima, allegro. This is an ‘elastic canon at the 12th’; Simpson commented ‘Bach would have died if he’d heard this!’

VII Andante, a miniature slow movement.

VIII Vivace, a dialogue between rapidly moving 1st violins and the equally rapid basses.
IX L’istesso tempo, a colloquy between the 2nd violins, violas and cellos based on similar material to VIII.
X L’istesso tempo, vigorous, rapid figures from all the strings
XI L’istesso tempo, begins with a high, held note in the first violins, continues with successive, canonic entries of intensivo phrases from the different groups—reminiscent of Nielsen.

XII Adagio, a still, beautiful variation built on successive soft discords entering from the lower notes upwards in each bar. One group of the 2nd violins divisi a 3 have very high notes played as harmonics.
XIII Cantabile ♩= ♪ del precedente A fully-fledged slow movement, some of the most beautiful pages Simpson ever wrote.

Fuga, Allegretto vivace – Piu mosso – Adagio The Fugue begins quietly and begins to run with relentless energy through an amazing variety of figures and textures. This is homage to Bach, of course. Sometimes the music is vigorous, at other times seems to be dying away, but there is always momentum behind it. Halfway through a quieter passage with divisi cellos and violas begins a faster section and the passage that ensues is breathtaking in its contrapuntal mastery; the inspiration here is perhaps Beethoven’s Große Fuge. At length, however, the volume and tempo slacken and the final Adagio section begins. A solo cello intones fragments of Bach’s theme and the piece closes peacefully.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Symphonic Addict on July 18, 2021, 05:45:55 PM
Stupendous job! It's clear that your love for this composer is palpable. Hopefully it will be recorded soon.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: Madiel on July 18, 2021, 05:48:56 PM
Oh man, the 5th Sarabande?

I’ll definitely want to hear this.
Title: Re: Robert Simpson(1921-1997)
Post by: calyptorhynchus on September 20, 2021, 01:47:18 PM
And now my next (but last) transcription of an unrecorded Simpson work: The trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano of 1967.

This is available at:

https://youtu.be/WUx4Y4Aafhk

Some notes:

This work was written in 1967, the year before the well-known Quintet for Clarinet and Strings. It is completely different from that work, although like the later work it has enormous energy and passages of serious beauty.

When I was transcribing it I listened to it section by section as I completed each section and I interpreted it as a work of extreme musical energy like the Symphony No.5. However on listening to it all the way through I revised my opinion, because I had missed the fun and good humour of the piece. In my interpretation now the work is a sort of written-down improvisation between the piano on the one hand and the clarinet in A and cello on the other. I say this because the clarinet and cello usually play together in unison or close imitation (the cello often playing high in its register) whereas the piano part is more different in its material. I imagined Simpson imagining a clarinettist and a cellist who are very good friends and understand each other very well meeting up for the first time with a pianist who is a little more jazzy and outgoing than they are and the Trio is the result of their first improvisations together.

The piece begins with a slow, mysterious introduction in Eflat minor, where it sounds as though the players are testing their tuning. Suddenly an Allegro non troppo section begins led by the piano. The first stretch of fast music is a little bit tentative and is full of figurations that are played with and then quickly dropped. The music isn’t particularly dissonant, but it is modulating constantly (Simpson, as usual, uses no key signatures, and every bar is full of accidentals, throughout the piece).

Quite soon the music drops away in volume and tempo and a slower section ♩= 72 begins. This is seriously beautiful, but doesn’t last long, almost as though the musicians have suddenly discovered the profundity of their music-making and are a little embarrassed about it. It fades away, there is a pause, and then an Allegro molto e furioso section begins. This is faster than the first fast section and two-in-a-bar, not triple time. Its energy is incredible (in some bars every note has an accent and sfs and sffs abound). But I don’t hear any anger (despite the furioso) or angst, perhaps occasionally the clarinet sounds a little irritated with the piano, and the cello sounds as if it is straining to keep up, high on the fingerboard.

The music again is full of figurations and patterns that are tried out and then dropped, and picked up again at a later stage in different combinations. There are quieter passages, but the music carries on and on (this last section is in fact the same length as the first fast section but has more notes and sounds more substantial) until quite suddenly the players seem to realise that it’s time to stop. The music just seems to end mid-flow, with a quick concluding few bars where the clarinet plays a sustained f# fading to niente, seemingly the note where proceedings had got up to, but the pianist (remembering they began in Eflat minor) realises that the clarinet note can be reinterpreted as a gflat and so plays a quiet chord of Eflat minor to round the session off.

00.00 Largo Molto
00.54 Allegro non troppo
08.55 ♩= 72
14.08 Allegro molto e furioso (tt 22.00)

Enjoy