Notes and Editorial Reviews
If you know that feeling of expectancy, of vast potential energy, at the outset of a great symphony, you will surely respond to the opening of Simpson's Ninth—respond and be wholly engrossed. You will be led through shifting pedal-points and wedge-shaped themes encompassing a specific harmonic universe; through waves of energy pulsating fit to burst, until burst they do into a titanic scherzo (''Beethoven would probably have thought that some lunatic had got hold of one of his scherzos'' as Simpson puts it); through slow, disembodied traceries of string lines, through awe-inspiring climaxes to a no less awe-inspiring hushed coda. And as rising scales pass through the coda's pedal-points into the final glacial sonority you will know that you
have heard one of the finest symphonies of the post-war era.
The composer adds an explanatory talk of some 18 minutes—''if you happen to react positively to the music''(!). Here are laid bare some of the salient constructional features of the work—the opening's basis in chorale prelude procedures (a fairly cosmic rethinking thereof!), the single underlying pulse of the entire work (a recurrent feature in Simpson's output, but never before applied on this scale), the palindromic variations in the second half, the debts to Bach, Beethoven and Bruckner (the last being the most overt). To which one might add that the rigorous processes described in this talk suggest a somewhat unlikely kinship with Bartok at his most abstract (as in the first movement of the Musiefor strings, percussion and celesta).
Bartok, it is safe to say, has as little to do with this work's symphonic instincts as any other 'big name' of the last 50 years or so. Simpson stands not at any fixed pole of today's music, but rather at a kind of magnetic north, free from the attempts of musical cartographers to pin down his position, spiritually allied to composers of any age and any style who have penetrated to the essence of music's motion in time. So utterly absorbing is this symphony that I have hardly given a thought to the performance or the recording—which is surely the best possible tribute to all concerned. Once again Hyperion have thoughtfully added track numbers to Lionel Pike's authoritative sleeve-note.
-- Gramophone [12/1988]
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 9 by Robert Simpson
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1985; England
Date of Recording: 02/1988
Venue: Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Center, Dorset
Length: 49 Minutes 44 Secs.
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