Mark Simpson (clarinetist)

Mark Simpson (born 26 September 1988) is a British composer and clarinettist from Liverpool. In 2006, he became notable for winning both the BBC Young Musician of the Year (as clarinettist) and the BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer of the Year, making him the first and, to date, only person to win both competitions.[1]

Mark Simpson
Born (1988-09-26) 26 September 1988 (age 32)
Liverpool, England
Years active2005–present


Simpson attended King David High School, Liverpool and attended the Royal Northern College of Music junior department where he studied clarinet with Nicholas Cox[2] and composition with Gary Carpenter.[3] After a term at the Royal College of Music, Simpson attended St. Catherine's College, Oxford University, reading for a BA in Music from 2008–2011. He also studied composition with Julian Anderson at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and studied clarinet privately with Mark van de Wiel.[4]

Career as clarinettistEdit

While at school, Simpson was principal clarinet in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.[3] He won the BBC Young Musician of the Year title on 20 May 2006, playing Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto with the Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier at The Sage Gateshead.

The following year, he performed at the Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park, London, performing Artie Shaw's Concerto for Clarinet.[5] On 3 July 2008 he played in Liverpool as the solo clarinettist for the premiere of Emily Howard's Liverpool, The World in One City along with the Liverpool Youth Orchestra and five hundred primary school children.[6]

Other notable concerto performances include Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto at the 2018 Proms with the BBC Philharmonic,[7] John Adams’s Gnarly Buttons with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and appearances with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Northern Sinfonia City of London Sinfonia and BBC Concert Orchestra.[1]

Simpson has also commissioned and premiered new works including Simon Holt's Joy Beast (2017), a concerto for basset clarinet[8] and Edmund Finnis' Four Duets (2012) for clarinet and piano.[9]

Career as composerEdit

Simpson has cited a number of composers as influences on his work, including György Ligeti, Thomas Adès, Julian Anderson, Mark-Anthony Turnage, John Adams, Helmut Lachenmann, Cornelius Cardew, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono.

He has also drawn inspiration from painting and poetry, in works such as Ariel (2009), which was based on the Sylvia Plath poem of the same name,[10] and a A mirror fragment… (2008), which was based on a poem by Melanie Challenger.[11]

Early works by SImpson include the ensemble piece It Was As if the Earth Stood Still (2005), which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3's "Hear and Now" in November 2005,[12] and Lov(escape) for clarinet and piano, which Simpson performed himself in the finalists' concert of the BBC Young Musician competition in September 2006.[13]

Simpson's first orchestral commission was Threads for Orchestra, for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which premièred at The Sage Gateshead on 1 April 2008.

In 2014 he was awarded one of five Sky Academy Arts Scholarships, during which he wrote his oratorio The Immortal, which was awarded the Classical Award at the South Bank Sky Arts Award in 2016, following its premiere by the BBC Philharmonic.[14] In 2015 he was appointed as the BBC Philharmonic's Composer in Association.[15]

Other significant works include Israfel (2015), premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra,[16] and sparks, which was commissioned for the 2012 Last Night of the Proms.[1]

Simpson's first opera Pleasure was commissioned by Opera North, the Royal Opera and Aldeburgh Music and premiered in 2016. Its plot concerns a woman, Val, who works as a toilet attendant in a gay nightclub.[17] The cast of the first production included soprano Lesley Garrett as Val and baritone Steven Page as Anna Fewmore, an ageing drag queen.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "Mark Simpson: Biography". Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  2. ^ "Mark Simpson interview: Liverpool-born classical composer | Your Move". YM Liverpool. 3 January 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Mark Simpson, BBC Young Musician of the Year 2006". Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Bachtrack Composers Project: Mark Simpson (b.1988)". Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  5. ^ "BBC - Proms - Proms in the Park - London".
  6. ^ "BBC - Liverpool - Capital of Culture - Capital of Culture Mark was commissioned to write a piece for the Last Night of the Proms. sparks will be performed at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 8 September 2012. Events".
  7. ^ "Prom 4: Mark Simpson impresses in Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto". Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Simon Holt & BBC Philharmonic: Joy Beast". BBC Music Events. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  9. ^ "Edmund Finnis | Four Duets". Rhinegold. 1 December 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  10. ^ "Mark Simpson - Ariel". Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Bachtrack Composers Project: Mark Simpson (b.1988)". Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Ensemble 10/10 Program Listings on Hear and Now". BBC Radio 3. 5 November 2005. Retrieved 19 January 2008.
  13. ^ "Wigmore Hall Series of Young Musician Finalists: Mark Simpson". BBC Radio 3. 14 September 2006. Retrieved 19 January 2008.
  14. ^ Catherine Jones (6 June 2016). "Liverpool composer Mark Simpson wins a prestigious Sky Arts Award". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  15. ^ "Mark Simpson named as the BBC Philharmonic's new Composer in Association". Gramophone. 26 February 2015.
  16. ^ "Mark Simpson – Israfel (World Première)". 5:4. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  17. ^ Simpson, Mark (28 April 2016). "Welcome to the Pleasuredome … Mark Simpson's opera debut". the Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  18. ^ "Pleasure; Tannhäuser – review". the Guardian. 1 May 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2020.

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