'one of Adès’s finest achievements' The Guardian (Andrew Clements)


basset cl – 2 vln.vla.vlc


Score and parts in preparation

Programme Notes

I. A Sea-Change (...those are pearls...)
II. The Woods So Wild
III. Lachrymae
IV. Divisions on a Lute-song: Wedekind’s Round

The clarinet quintet Alchymia is woven from four threads leading out of the alchemical world of Elizabethan London. The movement titles refer to:

William Shakespeare, The Tempest 1611 - the  king’s eyes transformed by the sea into pearls.

The Woods So Wild 1612 - Tudor popular song transformed by William Byrd into keyboard divisions (variations).

Lachrymae 1600 - (Tears) - John Dowland’s lute-song, which he transformed into viol consort Fantasias.

Divisions on a Lute-song: Wedekind’s Round - variations on the playwright Frank Wedekind’s Lautenlied (lute-song), which is played by clarinet, imitating a barrel-organ in the London street, in the final scene of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu.

Thomas Adès


“A triumphant premiere from our greatest living composer… Each of its four movements took something simple and transmuted it into something rich and strange… All very Adès, and there were indeed things about this new piece that seemed familiar… But there were also things that suggested Adès has opened a door onto a new phase… The boldest movement was the last. Based on the “barrel-organ” melody of the final scene of Berg’s opera Lulu the piece took the melody by the hand and led it gently through different keys, dressing it in different musical clothes in a spirit of ironic playfulness.”
The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 1 October 2021

‘Outstanding. Armed with a basset clarinet Simpson eloquently led us through calmly descending, clear-textured phrases into the first of four spellbinding movements designed by Adès to further the alchemical processes regularly used by Elizabethan composers to turn simple musical material into gold. After the opening movement’s falling gestures (first serene, later fierce), the second movement, inspired by Byrd, brought on a difficult feast of wriggling quavers, tossed off with inhuman ease. Suspended motion entered with the third, leading to a powerful crescendo of emotion... Adès’s own alchemy was at its peak in the finale, which veered away from Elizabethan sources towards Alban Berg’s opera scorcher Lulu, with moods varying from clarinet screaming to quiet acceptance, at the end, of the power of conventional tonality. Only Adès could have written this strange, magical and arresting piece, and Simpson and the Diotimas served it brilliantly well.’
The Times (Geoff Brown), 1 October 2021



Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, Germany)

Quatuor Diotima, Mark Simpson


Pittville Pump Room (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom)

Mark Simpson, Doric String Quartet

Find Out More


Baker-Baum Concert Hall (La Jolla, USA)

Mark Simpson, Alexi Kenney, Anthony Marwood, Rebecca Albers, Coleman Itzkoff

Find Out More