NICHOLAS SIMPSON (b.1958): String Quartets in G Minor and in C, Remembered Music for Soprano and String Quartet.
Catalogue Number: 08V057
Label: Stone Records
Description: These are very personal, intimate works; they are moving for all the right reasons that chamber music encompasses - conversational and detailed, with something to say and the ideal means with which to say it. Seeing the titles one might think at first that here is another composer deliberately avoiding the last century-plus of music history, but that isn’t true at all. Simpson has been in the happy position of being the definition of an amateur (in the best sense) musician, while drawing on, and excelling at, formal musical study (he was a Tavener pupil) when he chose. He had a career in a completely different field for a while, and has always surrounded himself with music and musicians as an amateur violinist and more recently, a provincial but professional conductor. So while his music is indeed tonal it is very individual, drawing freely on a wide range of influences without adhering to any particular school. By his own admission, the G minor quartet is infused with the angst of mid-life crises, uncertainties or whatever (unspecified). The harmonies tend toward the bitter and astringent, though the reflective last movement settles finally into a lovely, resignedly peaceful coda. The central scherzo is highly dissonant, with a frenetic edge. The C major from 1994 was the result of playing Beethoven quartets with a scratch ensemble in London, and it sounds like it, though not in the sense of copying or pastiching its models; there is a 20th century edginess and the sudden intrusion of static dissonance like islands of doubt and despair interrupting the lively debate. The middle movement suggests pained contemplation with a moment of agonised clarity in the movement’s impassioned canonic climax. Remembered Music sets part of a gently melancholy poem by Kathleen Raine (1908-2003), full of imagery of remembrance of lost things, with a flowing melodic line over a more deliberately 'modern' accompaniment of agitated scurrying and static dissonances. Texts included. Charlotte Trepess (soprano), Zelkova Quartet.