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Orchid Classics has released the premiere recording of Mark Simpson’s Geysir, paired with Mozart’s masterly Gran Partita, and a video performance with the same ensemble of leading wind players is now available for viewing.

Mark Simpson’s wind ensemble work Geysir has been released in its first recording on Orchid Classics, paired with Mozart’s Gran Partita wind serenade K.361, with the composer directing both performances from the clarinet (ORC100150). To accompany the release, a performance of Geysir was filmed alongside the recording sessions.

> Watch the video

> Listen to clips and buy the recording

Simpson composed Geysir in 2013 with first performances the following year by the Britten Sinfonia in Cambridge and London. The eruptive eight-minute work has been programmed subsequently at the Lammermuir Festival and the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival as part of a major feature on Simpson’s music. Additional planned performances this year in Glasgow, Edinburgh and at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music were sadly cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.

Geysir is scored for the same forces as Mozart’s masterly Gran Partita, with pairs of oboes, clarinets, basset horns and bassoons; four horns and double bass. The work provides additional repertoire to benefit from the combination of this unusual and distinctive Harmoniemusik wind ensemble, making it ideal for festival programming where chamber musicians assemble. In an Orchid sleeve note interview with Benjamin Poore, Simpson comments:

“Initially I had wanted to explore the ensemble by dividing it into two symmetrical groups of six – an oboe, clarinet, basset horn, bassoon, and two horns – with the double bass at the centre and using that as a basis for a piece with palindromic structure. I gave up on this idea after some time working through it. I relistened to the ‘Gran Partita’ in an attempt to provide a new direction for the piece and it was the sensuousness of the instrumental writing and the sheer sound of the ensemble that eventually provided the springboard into a creative flow.

“I took two very basic textural ideas from the Mozart as a starting point: the glorious B flat major homophonic chord at the outset of the piece, and the ‘bubbling’ clarinet parts in variation five of the Serenade’s sixth movement. Gradually it opened up and ended up being a flurry of colour and harmonic shifts.

“I think Geysir sits well alongside the Mozart. It has an expressive depth and a virtuosity of colour. The ‘Gran Partita’ gets performed so much these days – just search on YouTube for performances of it – and I’d love to see Geysir joining it on the concert platform more often.”

Mark Simpson can be heard talking about the new recording on a Gramophone podcast.

“In a single movement, this short, persuasive work builds on two musical ideas from the ‘Gran Partita’, bubbling and boiling towards a climactic eruption, before subsiding back to where it began… It’s gone straight on to my best albums of the year list.”
The Observer

Mark Simpson is currently composing a violin concerto for Nicola Benedetti, due for premiere with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in April 2021 conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. The work is co-commissioned by the LSO, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and a US orchestra to be announced, with further performances scheduled in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cologne next spring, all featuring Nicola Benedetti as soloist.

>  Further information on Work: Geysir

Photo: Bo Lutoslawski

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