Simpson: Media morte in vita sumus; Tempi; Eppur si muove; Canzona

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COMPOSERS: Simpson
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Media morte in vita sumus; Tempi; Eppur si muove; Canzona
PERFORMER: Corydon Singers & Brass Ensemble/ Matthew Best; Iain Quinn (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67016
Robert Simpson (d1997) was not only one of Britain’s leading exponents of the symphony and string quartet, but an outstanding Bruckner and Nielsen scholar. Both composers have had a fruitful impact on his music, alongside Beethoven, who remains probably the key formal influence.

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As well as works for brass band, Simpson wrote pieces using a smaller brass consort – tuba, two or three trumpets and trombones, and (in the striking choral work Media morte in vita sumus) four French horns.

In Tempi, Simpson teases the imagination by setting to music for a cappella choir the familiar musical time-markings, ranging from prestissimo to calmo, lento and a striking morendo al niente. The result is witty, cheerful and sinister by turns, and highly effective. Media morte is a darker, more introspective piece, whose text reflects on man’s struggle for immortality.

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In this and the contrasted Canzona, Matthew Best’s first-class Corydon Brass (including Steele-Perkins and Laird on trumpets) demonstrate as much fugal versatility as the exquisitely controlled choir. Lastly, Eppur si muove is a tour de force for organ, full of changes and contrasts recalling Nielsen’s epic Commotio, and culminating in a massive passacaglia, imaginatively registered on the Winchester Cathedral organ by Iain Quinn. Roderic Dunnett