Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Track(s) taken from CDS44191/7
Recording details: May 1994
St Augustine's Church, Kilburn, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: October 2006
Total duration: 30 minutes 50 seconds

‘One of the outstanding recording projects of our time … this Hyperion series deserves to stand as a monument while other more superficially glamorous ventures rise and fall around it. If it does not do so, and if it does not eventually force Simpson’s breakthrough into the orchestral repertoire, there will truly be no justice’ (Gramophone)

'One of the best-kept secrets of post-war British Music… Utterly compelling' (The Guardian)

‘In lieu of live shows, please buy any or all of the Hyperion Simpson discs. Buy the Ninth Quartet, the First Quartet, the Third and Fifth Symphonies, the Second or Fourth, all the quartets, all the symphonies … but start soon, or you’ll miss a lifetime’s inspiration. This is serious music, through which one determined Englishman hurled down the gauntlet to the self-regarding second half of the 20th century, and helped justify once more music’s claim to be the most elevating, questing, and stimulating accompaniment to the life we all lead’ (Fanfare, USA)

'This set is the way to acquire the Simpson symphonies' (MusicWeb International)

'These are outstanding recordings of music that is always adventurous and challenging yet ultimately rewarding' (NewClassics.com)

'Hats off to Hyperion for such a sensibly priced and stylish repackaging of one of the great recording projects of the last two decades – the recording of the eleven symphonies of Robert Simpson … In a superbly cogent and insightful booklet-essay newly commissioned for this slim-line box set Calum McDonald describes Robert Simpson’s cycle of symphonies as “surely one of the most imposing bodies of work of any British composer … Simpson is a symphonist of European stature, whose music deserves to be known the world over.” This last disc was dedicated to the memory of Hyperion’s indefatigable founder Ted Perry and forms a handsome conclusion to a towering achievement for everyone involved' (ClassicalSource.com)

Symphony No 3
composer
1962

Adagio – Presto  [16'12]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Robert Simpson’s Symphony No 3, written in 1962, was commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and dedicated to Havergal Brian who had inscribed his own Symphony No 13 to Robert Simpson three years earlier. Like many of Simpson’s works of the 1950s and 1960s, Symphony No 3 embraces the principle of ‘emergent tonality’ where a conflict is pursued between two opposing tonal centres, in this case C major and B flat. There are just two movements: the first a broad sonata-allegro, the second (surely one of the most impressive and original structures in twentieth-century symphonism) ‘a huge composed accelerando, but with the dynamics repressed’—in the composer’s own words.

The opening movement is the only example to date of a self-contained sonata-allegro in Simpson’s symphonic output. The attentive listener may detect a Beethovenian model which strongly determines the overall structure and dynamism of the musical argument. The Symphony begins mysteriously—octave Cs on violins suspended above sinister, semitonal woodwind murmurings. Then the first tutti, an explosive B flat minor statement introducing two motifs simultaneously which are crucial to the course of the movement as a whole.

After a recurrence of these two ideas, and subsequent development, the second subject group appears in F. This contains a number of themes: a calmer, unison melody first on strings and then oboes and clarinets; a hushed, chromatic figure on unison strings, creeping down and then up; and a brief, dissonant climax (tutti) that resolves onto an F major chord.

The development is concerned principally with expanding many of the former ideas so as to create broader paragraphs. The moment of reprise is heralded by the fiercest collision yet between B flat minor and C, the latter forcefully reiterated on trumpets and timpani. Eventually B flat minor is reinstated, and it is that key which represents the return of the second subject. B flat minor also dominates the large coda, which opens gently at a slightly slower tempo with a further transformation of (a). The final climax progresses through a thrilling com­pression of phrase-lengths and a defiant cadence in B flat minor.

The second movement is the first example in Simpson’s work of a massive accelerando from Adagio to Presto where the basic pulse remains unaltered. The composer has suggested it is ‘nature music, in a sense—the only piece of mine which has an origin in some external situation …’ Alternatively, it can be seen as a continuous structure evolving from the initial idea on first violins. Each increase in tempo brings about fresh transformations of the first theme: bassoon, Andante; bassoon, Allegretto; cellos, basses, and later all strings, Allegro; oboes and flutes, Vivace; second violins, Presto, the music seldom rising above piano. Finally it explodes into a vigorous tutti, driven forward with thrilling, Beethovenian momentum culminating in a chord which, in the words of Hugh Ottoway, ‘is nothing other than a dominant seventh of C major—in root position too—yet it sounds like some dazzling new discovery’. This climax quickly subsides, revealing a sustained B flat in the bass, against which a solo clarinet recalls the opening violin theme for the last time. The B flat then moves up to C, and the Symphony disappears magically on a bare fifth, C and G.

from notes by Matthew Taylor © 1994

Other albums featuring this work
'Simpson: Symphonies Nos 3 & 5' (CDA66728)
Simpson: Symphonies Nos 3 & 5
Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch