Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Movement 2: Tranquillo
Movement 3: Allegro
The composer stresses that this work is conceived very much as a 'genuine trio', despite the fact that the characteristic qualities of all three instruments are always respected. None dominates. Hence textural clarity predominates, consisting sometimes of just three or four contrapuntal voices. As is typical of Simpson's later music, the substance of the Trio evolves naturally from the power inherent in the basic intervals. Here minor thirds are significant, as well as semitonal clashes, usually created by contrapuntal lines crossing each other. Like the Sonata for Two Pianos (1980), the Horn Trio plays without a break but adopts a three-movement pattern — fast-slow-fast.
The opening movement (Allegro con brio) drives forward with great momentum, whilst allowing some space for some mysterious elements to pervade the music. There is, however, a more relaxed theme, a duet between horn and violin, that appears at the corresponding place where a second subject might be expected, though this Allegro does not adhere to sonata form. This more lyrical idea prevails in the closing stages of the Allegro and acts as a tragical transition into the central slow movement, Tranquillo. Simpson's contrapuntal mastery is strongly evident here; the music is peacefully flowing and contemplative, with only one brief episode of tension in the middle.
Polyphony also dominates the final Allegro which is heralded by some pattering semiquaver figurations on the piano. The composer once described this movement as having 'something of the character of a blunt Scherzo.' As with the finale of the Brahms Horn Trio, immense stamina is required from all players, particularly in the final stages where the music advances with trenchant energy towards a bold, decisive triadic conclusion.
from notes by Matthew Taylor © 1994