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Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
St Luke's, London
Nicola Benedetti, violin / London Symphony Orchestra / Gianandrea Noseda
Composer's Notes

I. Lamentoso
II. Dance
III. Andante Amoroso
IV. Cadenza
V. Presto con fuoco — Finale

I started my Violin Concerto just before the UK’s first COVID lockdown in March 2020 and my initial musical ideas were hopeful, singing, full of life. As the pandemic worsened I quickly realised that it was impossible to ‘carry on as normal’ and the work would need to explore a different set of responses.

The concerto begins, quietly, calmly, as if from nowhere, with a statement of B-flat minor in the strings over which the violin laments, drawing us into a world of stillness and reflection. A moment of transition launches us directly into the next movement.

Movement two is a fast, energetic dance that is in essence a response to having a huge amount of pent-up energy that I was unable to release during the period of lockdown restrictions. It hurtles us through various balletic tableaux.

Movement three is an impassioned love song tinged with moments of darkness.

The Cadenza fourth movement provides us with another moment of stillness and revisits material from the second movement.

The fifth movement begins with a devilish A minor tarantella that leads directly to the Finale. This opens with a simple melody in the violin which is then passed through winds, strings and brass, guiding us to a wild, raucous, energy-filled climax that leads to the work’s close.

Programme note © Mark Simpson, 2021

Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra (with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation), WDR Sinfonieorchester, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Reproduction Rights
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer.

Press Quotes

“This is a full-on, big-hearted concerto… there’s hardly a moment where Simpson’s writing does not seem like a delirious outpouring of multiple passions… The boiling intensity of the opening Lamentoso, a cocktail of mercurial exotica and big rhapsodic gestures, turns to wild abandon in the ensuing dance. Then there’s a heated love song, not without euphoric tantrums, a vigorous rhetorical cadenza, and a frantic whirlwind finale”
The Scotsman

“Written in five movements, the concerto is a veritable pentathlon for the violin, testing speed, agility, concentration and stamina, all without a break. Simpson prefaces it with a quotation from Robert Browning: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” There is a big, traditional violin concerto at root here, as Simpson exults in virtuosity and a glittering orchestral background… this is a concerto that will blow the mind.”
Financial Times



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