Principal timpanist at the London Philharmonic Orchestra
and senior timpani professor at the Royal Academy of
My thoughts about being a timpanist
I have always loved orchestral music from all eras.
I started playing the violin in my school orchestra
at a young age and was constantly drawn to the sounds
coming from the back of the orchestra, in particular
the beautiful sound of the timpani. My interest has
always been in timpani as essentially harmonic, rather
than percussive instruments. To me itís very important
to have an acute awareness of the timpaniís harmonic
role at any given point in the music, and from this
perspective one can tune, balance and emphasise within
the orchestral sound.
Beethoven obviously loved the timpani and his symphonies
are the cornerstone for all timpanists, technically
and musically. Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Mahler and
Richard Strauss all wrote wonderful timpani parts, showing
that they enjoyed the rich sound and harmonic potential
of the instruments. Stravinsky, Bartok and Janacek also
loved timpani, writing very demanding parts that are
extremely rewarding to play; even though they pushed
the timpaniís capabilities to the limit, every note
is so well-considered and effective.
To be able to play the music of such fine composers
in a great orchestra is an enormous privilege, especially
on Wolfgang Hardtkeís beautiful instruments; they have
a huge range of volume and colour for romantic repertoire
as well as being able to provide a really compact and
punchy sound as and when thatís required, by classical
and by twentieth century composers. Theyíre superbly
built, fantastically versatile, great sounding drums!
Born in Cambridge in 1966, Simon studied timpani
at the Royal College of Music in London with Alan Cumberland,
Janos Keszei and Andrew Smith. He won the gold medal
in the 1988 Shell/LSO competition and joined the percussion
section in the London Symphony Orchestra in 1991.
He became joint principal timpani and percussion
in 1995, being privileged to share the timpani position
with Kurt-Hans Goedicke. In 2002 Simon joined the London
Philharmonic Orchestra as principal timpanist.
He is senior timpani professor at the Royal Academy
of Music and has taught and given master classes around
the world. Simon also enjoys composing and arranging
brass music, from quintet to tentet and large brass
ensemble and his arrangements have been played by a
variety of groups including London Brass and LPO Brass.
Hardtke Classic with Berlin bowls, sizes
81cm, 74, 66, 60, 58
Why I play Hardtke timpani
Wolfgang Hardtke simply makes supremely
good instruments; the excellent standards of craftsmanship
allied with innovative improvements to the original
Ringer design provide drums with a deep rich tone, good
sustain and a clean, focused centre to each note across
an enormous dynamic range. The sound has a unique character
- these timpani are a joy to play.
I mainly use the Funke range Ė German
felt with cork cores plus flannel and leather. I also
use sticks by David Morbey, Helmut Rosenthal, Peter
Offelder, 4timp, Sean Hooper and Gerald Fromme.
I use Super Kalfo heads which I lap