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The Simple Truth

How hard is it to achieve meaningful musical simplicity? Why, like some movements in the visual arts, has musical simplicity flourished in the 20th and 21st centuries?

Isaac Newton's 'Truth is ever to be found in simplicity...' has often been echoed in music by many of the great composers down the ages. But during the 20th and 21st centuries, akin to movements in the visual arts, some composers have pared down their music to a few seemingly basic elements. But how difficult is it to achieve meaningful musical simplicity and what's the difference between that and mind-numbingly banal simple-is-as-simple-does?

With the help of composer Howard Skempton and Tate Modern curator Emma Lewis, Tom Service discovers the hard and often complex truths about simplicity.

David Papp (producer)

Available now

30 minutes

Music Played

  • Howard Skempton

    Well, well Cornelius for piano [1982]

    Performer: John Tilbury.
    • sony.
    • 66842.
  • Joe Raposo

    Sing

    Music Arranger: Carpenters. Performer: Carpenters.
    • A&M.
    • 541 002-2.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    33 Variations on a waltz by Diabelli in C major Op.120 for piano

    Performer: Igor Levit.
    • Sony.
    • 88875140152.
  • Cadgwith Fishermen's Chorus

    TRADITIONAL: What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

    • (Recording Rights Owner).
    • GBAJX9440510.
  • Howard Skempton

    Chorale for piano [1976]

    Performer: John Tilbury.
    • sony.
    • 66842.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 9 in D minor Op.125 (Choral)

    Conductor: Claudio Abbado. Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: Eric Ericsons Kammarkör.
    • DG.
    • 4714912.
  • Nils Frahm

    Tristana

    Performer: Nils Frahm.
    • Erased Tapes.
    • Erased-Tapes.
  • Arvo Pärt

    Spiegel im Spiegel for violin and piano

    Performer: Alexei Grynyuk. Performer: Nicola Benedetti.
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON.
    • Dg-4763399.
  • Howard Skempton

    Rise up, my love for chorus

    Conductor: Paul Hillier. Performer: Ars Nova Copenhagen.
    • CANTALOUPE.
    • CA21127.
  • Philip Glass

    Concerto no. 1 for violin and orchestra

    Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi. Performer: Gidon Kremer. Performer: Vienna Philharmonic.
    • DG.
    • 4370912.
  • Howard Skempton

    Campanella 3 for piano [1982]

    Performer: John Tilbury.
    • sony.
    • 66842.
  • Howard Skempton

    Piano Piece 1969

    Performer: John Tilbury.
    • SONY.
    • SK-66482.
  • Ludovico Einaudi

    The Dark Bank of Clouds

    Performer: Ludovico Einaudi.
    • decca.
    • 3735296.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Requiem in D minor K.626, compl. Sussmayr

    Conductor: René Jacobs. Performer: Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • HMM902291.
  • Anton Webern

    Symphony Op.21

    Conductor: Giuseppe Sinopoli. Performer: Dresden State Opera Orchestra.
    • apex.
    • 2564683993.
  • Leos Janáček

    Sinfonietta

    Conductor: Charles Mackerras. Performer: Vienna Philharmonic.
    • DECCA.
    • 4482552.
  • Laurence Crane

    10, 000 Green Bottles

    Performer: Ives Ensemble.
    • Nimbus.
    • NI6337.
  • Franz Schubert

    Quintet in C major D.956 for 2 violins, viola and 2 cellos

    Performer: Ralph Kirshbaum. Performer: Takács Quartet.
    • Hyperion.
    • CDA67864.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Quartet in C sharp minor Op.131 for strings

    Performer: Belcea Quartet.
    • ZigZag.
    • ZZT315.
  • Aaron Copland

    Appalachian spring - ballet vers. for orchestra [1945]

    Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas. Performer: San Francisco S O.
    • RCA.
    • 9026635112.

Broadcasts

  • Sun 13 Oct 2019 17:00
  • Fri 18 Oct 2019 16:30

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Podcast