Dunelm Records has made something of a speciality of
the music of Robert Simpson. No fewer than eight significant works of
his have been committed to disc in live performances since 1993. In
that year it produced a CD/cassette introducing Simpsonís eleven symphonies
in a talk by Malcolm MacDonald; now Mr. MacDonald turns his attention
to Simpsonís fifteen string quartets in a talk generously illustrated,
mostly by recordings from the Hyperion series, and recorded in association
with the Robert Simpson Society.
Mr. MacDonald sees the quartets as five groups of three,
chronologically and developmentally, and puts his arguments accordingly.
Their similarities with Beethoven, especially of Nos. 4 to 6, consciously
modelled on the Rasumovskys, are explored in considerable detail. Nielsen
and Haydn were other influences, though Simpson was very much his own
All in all this release is essential listening for
all interested in Simpsonís quartets and should also be heard by those
yet to be acquainted with them. It is excellently produced; the booklet/insert
contains a thoughtful essay by Mr. MacDonald, an "introduction
to an introduction", I suppose.
Simpsonís quartets are much less frequently heard in
live concerts than Shostakovichís fifteen or Bartókís six but
they are a comparable achievement. This issue will, I hope, argue their
case and is strongly recommended.