The Four Seasons
A fact of life we all have to face is the truth, that everything in life is in continual change. Everything is in constant growth or demise, on all levels and incessantly new ideas come up, new plants grow from the fertile soil of old thoughts and withered plant matter, only to be subjected to further change, development or demise.
We can most easily observe this grand spectacle of transition in the natural cycle of the seasons: they come and go, they have been our guidance for thousands of years. In accordance with the seasons we found our rhythm and subjected by them our suffering.
The 'Seasons' by Christopher Simpson are - if we consider the time of their creation - a pretty unusual formal realization of Fantasies for three viols: for one treble and two bass-viols with a basso continuo. Most of Simpson's compositions have come down to this century only as autographs, and of his instrumental works the 'Months' and the 'Seasons' are the most extraordinary cycles. We suppose that the master himself may have performed them with his disciples, for his own pleasure and the edification of his environment. The compositions are a genuine mixture of fantasia thrown in with a greta portion of division-style, a technique Simpson had a crucial part in researching and developing, especially on the viol.
The formal frame for each of the Seasons are three movements: each of them has a introductory Fantasia, followed by elaborated and embellished dance-movements, namely an Almain and a Galliard.
The joy of virtuosic and highly advanced ensemble-communication, a rich warm sound in combination with wild diminutions and experimental harmonic adventure are the distinctive disposition of these pieces.
We have taken the liberty to associate the characters of the seasons in free affiliation: the treble part travels among us like the point of the sunset travels through the year: Marthe is our spring-treble, while Frauke plays the summer and Hille represents the autumn and also winter.
Like our year begins with winter, this is the first piece on the CD, with the bleakness of the bare plain, that Simpson maybe envisioned with the sound of one single long note at the beginning of the Fantasia.
We have instrumented the continuo as colourful as we could with the lute-type instruments that were available in 17th-century England and even more: the metal-strung cittern and bandora plink like bitter frost in winter, spring is warming up to the sound of the English theorboe, growing fuller with time as the guitar joins in; In summer slowly warm winds of organ-sounds come up, then the leaves fall as the wind blows heavier and the theorboe fights with the bandora, giving in to the first audible frosty nights...
Simpson's 'Seasons' are capricious and vagarious, never constant, just as life, and just as the weather, that erratically subjects and surrounds us every day in continual inconstancy.
Every weather brings different atmospheres and moods that change and are interwoven with light and shade.
We can only take it as it comes. Life, the weather, the change.
We can philosophize over it, write songs, be happy, melancholly or sad.
We deem it wise to follow Karl Valentin's motto who said: 'I am happy when it rains, because, if I am not happy it will rain anyway!'
Hille, Frauke and Marthe, Summer 2016