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