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The work is in two parts. The first embraces a familiar Simpson fingerprint, first encountered in the Third Symphony: a gradual acceleration over a long span. Hence the music moves effortlessly from ‘Adagio mesto’ to ‘Andante cantabile’, from ‘Allegretto grazioso’ to ‘Allegro con brio’, eventually unleashing a sparkling ‘Prestissimo’ which forms the culmination of the first part. There is an abundance of striking word-painting during this section; take the ‘Subito forte’ eruptions, the stampeding ‘Impatientemente’, the scampering repetitions of ‘Prestissimo’, the ominous sounds of low basses singing ‘Susurrando minaccioso’.
Part Two is shorter. It is heralded by a return of the slow tempo, ‘Lento molto intensivo’, begun by tenors and basses and later taken up by female voices. Soon the intensity eases, and the music relaxes into one of Simpson’s most magical stretches of reflective polyphony.
Adagio mesto, Espressivo, Crescendo, Calmato, Adagio tranquillo, Andante cantabile, Dolce, Allegretto grazioso, Con grazia, Allegro con brio, Allegro brioso, Accelerando, Diminuendo, Prestissimo, Molto vivo, Subito piano, Subito forte, Prestissimo molto vivace, Subito forte, Subito pianissimo, Subito fortissimo, Prestissimo, Vivo, Volante, Vivace, Adirato, Impatientemente, Irato, Con furia, Susurrando minaccioso, Feroce, Furioso, Con rabbia, Adagio molto intensivo, Lento molto intensivo, Calmato, Tranquillo, Calmo, Pochettino crescendo, Morendo al niente.
from notes by Matthew Taylor © 1998