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The Royal Scottish National Orchestra tours Mark Simpson’s Violin Concerto with soloist Nicola Benedetti between 21 and 23 March. A few days later, Simpson’s new Rilke setting Phôs, composed as a pairing for Bruckner’s Mass in E Minor, is unveiled by the Salzburg Bach Choir and Mozarteum Orchestra.

Nicola Benedetti is the virtuosic soloist in the Scottish premiere tour of Mark Simpson’s Violin Concerto, with three performances presented by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of David Afkham. The 38-minute work, composed during the COVID years of 2020 and 2021, travels to the Music Hall in Aberdeen (21 March), the Usher Hall in Edinburgh (22 March) and the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow (23 March).

The tour by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra completes the set of performances by the work’s quartet of commissioners, with the RSNO alongside the London Symphony Orchestra (with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation), the WDR Sinfonieorchester in Cologne and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Simpson’s concerto was premiered in a live stream featuring the work's dedicatee Nicola Benedetti in April 2021, prompting a host of reviews acclaiming its passion and charged lyricism.

“Mark Simpson’s new Violin Concerto deserves audiences far and wide… Opening with a lament in B flat minor, darkness lurks throughout. Nevertheless, this is not sombre music. It’s full of rogue fireworks, firing off at all angles to create a brilliant, exhilarating, unexpected display. It explodes with all those feelings — frustration, anger, restlessness, confusion, uncertainty — that have had nowhere to go during the lockdowns. And it’s that emotional weight that makes Simpson’s music memorable and, I suspect, durable.”
The Times

> Visit the RSNO website

The city of Salzburg plays host to the world premiere on 26 March of Mark Simpson’s new work, Phôs, scored for choir and a wind and brass ensemble matching that of Bruckner’s Mass in E Minor, which is heard in the same programme at the Mozarteum’s Great Hall. The eight-minute work was commissioned by the Salzburg Bach Choir which performs it together with players from the Mozarteum Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Hartmann.

Mark Simpson describes how the commission led him to find a text exploring ideas of the divine, “settling on a poem from Rilke’s Book of Hours, it begins: ‘Dein allererstes Wort war: Licht’ - ‘Your very first word was light’.” The title Phôs combines “both the power and glory of light as a divine force, but also its complex relationship to man; the shadows cast and darkness felt thereafter”.

“In the Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon Barbara Cassin, writes: ‘Phôs, the same word as “light”… also refers to a man, a hero, a mortal and was a common term in Homer’s time… Greek man is then the one who sees, as a mortal, the light (that of the day of his birth, of the return, of death) what appears in the light, phenomena, and the person who enlightens them by expressing them.’ This more complex etymology of the notion of light I found to encapsulate quite well the ideas found in the poem.”

> Visit the Salzburg Bach Choir website

Across the 2021/22 season Mark Simpson’s horn and piano work Nachtstück was performed widely around Europe by soloist Ben Goldscheider on an ECHO Concert Halls Tour. This led the hornist to commission a further work from Simpson, Darkness Moves II, combining the instrument with electronics. This stands as a successor to the composer’s 2016 work for clarinet Darkness Moves, widely performed by Simpson as soloist. The new horn work is premiered by Ben Goldscheider at the Southbank Centre in London on 27 June.

>  Further information on Work: Violin Concerto

Photo: Katja Feldmeier

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