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String Quintet

'Simpson: String Quartet No 12 & String Quintet' (CDA66503)
Simpson: String Quartet No 12 & String Quintet
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Track 3 on CDA66503 [34'15] Archive Service

String Quintet
The String Quintet was commissioned by the BBC for its series of Monday lunchtime concerts at St John's, Smith Square, London. Completed in the summer of 1987 it in fact directly preceded the Twelfth Quartet. Like the Mozart String Quintets, it uses two violas rather than Schubert's two cellos. The work is dedicated to Frances Bain, a close friend of the composer and his wife. It is in one vast movement, employing two main tempi — Andante (Tempo 1) and Vivace (Tempo 2). Characteristically in Simpson's music these two tempi are related.

The opening Andante presents an idea of the greatest simplicity, a calm unaccompanied melody on first violin with a gently rocking interval of a fourth.

The other instruments take it up in turn, the last note of each entry being held so that (unfugally) a five-note chord is formed. The soft resolution of this is unexpected but euphonious. The mood remains serene and reflective for some time, until there is a tiny glimpse of the quicker tempo. Each time Tempo 2 intervenes it carries on a little longer, eventually taking over completely, building a fierce climax of almost symphonic nature. Then the process is gradually reversed, the Andante returning little by little, each time extending itself until Tempo 2 has been totally supplanted. With this the music returns to the atmosphere of the opening bars, and in the composer's words 'the end is peaceful and its sense of calm includes the intense energy at the heart of the work'.

Simpson's Quintet must rank as one of the most powerful examples since Brahms's Opus 111, written almost a hundred years before it.

from notes by Matthew Taylor 1992

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA66503 track 3
Recording date
24 May 1991
Recording venue
Benslow Music Trust Concert Hall, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Gary Cole
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Simpson: String Quartet No 12 & String Quintet (CDA66503)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: April 1992
    Deletion date: June 2012
    Archive Service
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