Simpson: String Quartets Nos 2 & 5

Simpson: String Quartets Nos 2 & 5

Delmé Quartet


Robert Simpson’s first three quartets date from 1951 to 1954 and form a natural sequence, both in terms of musical expression and tonality. No 1 displays the principles of ‘progressive’ or ‘emergent’ tonality; it moves from E flat to the opposite pole, A, where it concludes with an innocent, almost Haydnesque little dance. In a sense, Quartet No 2 begins where No 1 left off, with a happy dance-like tune, but this is attacked by inimical forces, which it fails to surmount. Whereas No 1 moved from one key to another, No 2 goes only from A major to A minor, and ends in darkness. The whole Quartet is dominated by a single pulse, over which different tempi are thrown. This idea, first introduced in late Sibelius, has proved to be of considerable importance to Simpson’s creative thinking, from his First Symphony onwards, culminating in the vast structure of the Ninth some thirty-five years later.

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