Composer and clarinettist Mark Simpson (b.1988, Liverpool) became the first ever winner of both the BBC Young Musician of the Year and BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer of the Year competitions in 2006. He went on to read Music at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and studied composition with Julian Anderson at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Simpson was a BBC New Generation Artist from 2012-2014 and received a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship in 2014. In 2015 he was appointed Composer in Association of the BBC Philharmonic for a period of four years.
Simpson’s The Immortal was premiered by the BBC Philharmonic at the 2015 Manchester International Festival to immediate critical acclaim. Other orchestral works include Israfel, premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, sparks, commissioned for the 2012 Last Night of the Proms and A mirror-fragment…, written for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Following the premiere of Pleasure, other season highlights include the premiere of a new trio for clarinet, piano and viola, commissioned by the Salzburg and Edinburgh International festivals for premiere by Simpson alongside Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Antoine Tamestit. Further ahead, Simpson will write a new solo clarinet piece, a Cello Concerto for Leonard Elschenbroich and the BBC Philharmonic, and a new work for the Gould Piano Trio.
Simpson’s second disc for NMC was released in May 2016, featuring chamber and ensemble works including Night Music, a cello and piano piece written for Leonard Elschenbroich and premiered at the Wigmore Hall. Simpson continues to perform widely as a soloist and chamber musician, with recent highlights including Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto at the BBC Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis and Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps at the Aldeburgh Festival with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Isabelle Faust and Jean-Guihen Queyras. He performed Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic and HK Gruber earlier this year and will repeat the concerto in Salzburg in Autumn 2016.
A reflection on Tomás Luis de Victoria
I was struck by the way he was able to inspire spirituality and reverence through his music – I sought to emulate this in my response. The piece is in four sections. The first section oscillates between a gentle C-sharp minor / F-sharp major harmony that instills a sense of devotion in the line ‘Ave Maria, gratia plena’ (‘Hail Mary, full of grace’). The second section, beginning ‘Sancta Maria, Mater Dei’ (‘Holy Mary, Mother of God’), is lighter in touch – I wanted to find something that represented a more joyful expression of the ‘Sancta Maria’ line in a D Major harmony with lilting cross- rhythms between the voices. The third section beginning ‘Ora pro nobis peccatoribus’ (‘pray for us sinners’) moves to a more desperate plea for forgiveness. The fourth final section ends with voices whispering (‘Ora pro nobis’) underneath two distant soprano and tenor Solos.
The piece is dedicated to my friends Víkingur Ólafsson and Halla Magnúsdóttir on the occasion of their wedding, July 2016.
WORLD PREMIERE: 22nd February 2018, #Renaissance- Majesty, Manchester Cathedral.