Simon Vincent: Stations of the Cross for Solo Piano: Vision Of Sound Records VOSCD-003
A human figure weighed down by a burden is invoked by the lengthy, sustained chords of Simon Vincent’s Stations of the Cross. Listeners unable to connect with the image of Christ experiencing crucifixion are invited to use this solemn music as a prompt to reflection upon the capacity of contemporary society and state to accept, without compassionate intervention, the widespread and persistent suffering of individuals. Vincent’s work appears unrelievedly sombre and fixated if you compare these 17 movements, prefaced by a meditation on Gethsemane that unequivocally sets the sober tone, with the emotional and expressive variety of Vingt Regards Sur L’Enfant-Jésus (1944), Messaien’s celebrated devotional cycle for piano. But given the piece’s declared purpose that cumulative gravity is also its strength, Vincent allows in just enough light to keep it from growing too ponderous.
– Louis Pattison, The Wire
Stations of the Cross, a new work for solo piano by British composer and pianist Simon Vincent, was inspired by a visit to Jerusalem in 2015 and by William Fairbanks’ installation in Lincoln Cathedral. Entitled Forest Stations, the installation is a series of sculptures in wood and reflects Fairbanks’ love of timber and his concern about the preservation of forests and trees. The sculptures tell the story of Christ’s death, the ‘Stations of the Cross’ being the places on the route to the place of Crucifixion where Christ is said to have stopped. For the faithful, each station, or stopping point, provides a point of prayer and meditation on the Passion of Christ.
Simon Vincent’s Stations of the Cross (2016) is a series of 17 short movements, depicting Christ’s spiritual, emotional and corporeal journey to his death on the cross.
The work is prefaced by an earlier piece, Meditations on Christ in the Garden of Gethsamane (2013) whose sombre, reflective mood prepares the listener for the main work on the disc. Musically, Stations of the Cross owes much to Morton Feldman, master of stillness and controlled, deliberate silences, while the concept of a cycle of devotional meditations connects this work to Messiaen’s epic Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus.
Vincent’s carefully-placed chords are infused with jazz harmonies, while subtleties of tonal colour are achieved through long, sustained notes and the piano’s resonance. It’s the kind of music that demands to be heard live, preferably in an acoustic which allows the timbres and unexpected fleeting clusters of notes and rhythmic fragments to linger in the air like memories.
It was Claude Debussy who declared that ‘music is the space between the notes’, and the pauses and fermatas which colour Stations of the Cross allow one to fully appreciate every single note and chord. Into this void, the sounds reverberate and resonate with a meditative stillness and restrained expressive gravity. The effect is powerfully cumulative, despite the brevity of each movement, with a sense of the music building inevitably towards its contemplative conclusion.
– Frances Wilson, The Cross-Eyed Pianist
In the January Papatamus I wrote about SIMON VINCENT [p] returning to acoustic piano after almost 2 decades using electronics. Vincent has now issued STATIONS OF THE CROSS [Vision Of Sound voscd-003] and calls this a contemporary classical work for solo piano and as he is the composer and player, I’ll take his word for it. This is a short CD [32:01] and with it largo and deliberate pacing it’s as much about silence as it is the notes and decay. To me while I am informed that it is written it is at the nexus of improvised and written music or instant composition and pre-composition and in fact Vincent says that the composition came out of intense improvisation. It is almost Satie like without the melodic harmonies. Lessons in silence and space.
– Robert D. Rusch, Cadence Magazine/Papatamus