Hyperion CDA66827 – Review by Roderick Swanston
I am reeling from having listened to this disc.
These three major works and a little miniature have all the Simpson features that his symphonies and string quartets revealed: intellectual rigour, dazzling but controlled powers of imagination, and, overall, a craggy grandeur.
Here is a salutary lesson that not all great twentieth-century music needs to have been bred from Viennese or Parisian stock, but that Scandinavian models and a continuing love of Beethoven’s musical argument can still be a fruitful ground for trail-blazing, not just reactionary, music.
What is so inspiring about this disc, apart from the consummate mastery of Raymond Clarke’s playing and his understanding of the music, is that Simpson’s latest piano work is his best. The forward energy of the early Piano Sonata, and its marvellously understated, evocative slow movement, as well as the fecund imagination of the Haydn variations, are all still there in the Beethoven Variations, but their tonality and linear leanness now replaced by grand chords, sudden silences and an irresistibly inexorable logic.
The Variations, with its enigmatically soft ending, should have you on the edge of your seat.
This is a marvellous addition to Hyperion’s pioneering series with magnificent performances of some awe-inspiring music.
Classic CD Magazine, issue 72 – April 1996