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Vagn HOLMBOE (1909-1996)
Concertos
Erik Heide (violin)
Lars Anders Tomter (viola)
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Dmitri Slobodeniouk
rec. De Geerhallen, Norrköping, Sweden, 13-17 June 2011.
DACAPO 6.220599 [59:18]
 
Chamber Symphonies
Lapland Chamber Orchestra/John Storgårds
rec. Rovaniemi Church, Finland, 31 March and 1 April 2011.
DACAPO 6.220621 [69:03]
 
Chamber Music I
Ensemble MidtVest
rec. HEART (Herning Museum of Contemporary Art), Herning, Denmark, 17-21 May 2010; 9 June 2010 (Sonata).
DACAPO 8.226073 [72:20] 

Chamber Music II
Ensemble MidtVest
rec. HEART (Herning Museum of Contemporary Art), Herning, Denmark, 3-6 October 2011.
DACAPO 8.226074 [70:28]
 
Solo and Chamber Works for Guitar
Jesper Siveboek (guitar)
Bolette Roed (recorder)
Johannes Søe Hansen (violin)
rec. Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Hall, March, July 2011, February 2012
DACAPO 8.226143 [71.20]
 
A Hand for Holmboe - Deconstructions by Katrine Ring
Katrine Ring (electronics) (Ring)
Danish National Chamber Orchestra/Hannu Koivula (Holmboe)
Recorded and remixed 1997-2012.
DACAPO 8.226569 [45:39 + 56:09]
 
Full Contents List at end of review  

'Concertos' is the latest instalment in Danish label Dacapo's ongoing Holmboe-fest, a truly fantastic series that stretches back many years and which has yielded more than a dozen albums. This review considers the latest half a dozen of a series which almost seems to be accelerating, all the above having been released in the last two eighteen months or so. Holmboe wrote a lot of music, and there is every indication that this will all add up to a complete works, culminating eventually, for those who have the patience, in a bargain-priced boxed set.
 
At any rate, 'Concertos' is an excellent place to start a collection of Holmboe's music, a path that all true music lovers should take unhesitatingly. An incredible 63 years separate the first and second works, the excellence of both giving some indication of the unfailing fertility of Holmboe's imagination. The excitingly virtuosic but also memorably melodious viola and violin concertos are both premiere recordings. The outstanding concerto for orchestra is too, but, rather startlingly, this recording is thought to be its first ever performance - even Holmboe never got to hear it! The twentieth century has thrown up many neglected works with this title that deserve to feature regularly in concert halls alongside the famous one by Bartók; Holmboe's as a high-ranker. On a downbeat, whilst this recording's engineering is in 'Super Audio' and generally very good, the concerto for orchestra, for reasons best known to Dacapo, has been trimmed in the upper decibel range, giving a slightly flat feeling - all the odder given that the works were all recorded at the same time and venue. Nonetheless, with the quality playing of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and two fine soloists, this disc, even with the sub-hour running time, adds up to a must-have.
 
The booklet notes assert that "Holmboe is one of those composers whose works are so plentiful and of such high quality that it can be hard to form an overall impression of the oeuvre." Previous entries in the Dacapo series certainly give credence to this idea. Last summer the label released a disc of Holmboe's three chamber symphonies performed by the much-underrated Lapland SO under John Storgårds. In another coup for Dacapo, these were also first recordings. Despite their reduced forces, the Lapland SO generate a big sound for these electrifying performances of three vivid, lucid works that sound like a trilogy. Audio quality is slightly on the thin side, however.
 
'Chamber Symphonies' was sandwiched by 'Chamber Music' volumes I and II, with the latter coming out early in 2013. The first disc heralded "a new series devoted to previously unrecorded chamber works" by the composer, a fact rendered almost implausible by the sheer lyrical warmth and poetic depth of these frequently neo-classical-ish pieces, brought to life on both discs by expressive, advocative readings from the all too under-exposed Ensemble MidtVest and Dacapo's bright, intimate engineering.
 
Late 2012 saw the release of a collection of Holmboe's music for guitar, both solo and in chamber works. Admittedly, the composer is not at his most compelling when writing for guitar, the idioms usually sounding slightly contrived in Scandinavian (and for that matter eastern European) hands, yet Jesper Siveboek's recital, with friends, is still a very pleasant way to spend a reflective hour or so. No one need fear the late composition dates - all his life Holmboe went his own way and, the odd excursion aside, it was not in the direction of modernism.
 
None of the works so far, apart from the Sonata for solo cello op.101, appeared on a double-disc Dacapo released in 2009 entitled 'Vagn Holmboe - The Key Masterpieces' (8.226101-02), a motley but tasty smörgåsbord - or kolde bord, as Holmboe would have said - of a compilation, and an ideal place for those not easily persuaded by words. Another recent Dacapo release (2010) not covered by this review is the bargain 7-CD boxed set of all of Holmboe's string quartets, performed by the Kontra Quartet. These works are a cornerstone of the composer's oeuvre and, if there were any justice, would be known to audiences and home listeners everywhere - the twentieth-century equivalent of Beethoven's sixteen.
 
For all discs reviewed here, the English-Danish booklet notes are well written and informative, with just the right amount of biographical versus musical detail. In all cases but one the writer is Jens Cornelius.
 
One Dacapo disc definitely not for the discerning listener is 'A Hand for Holmboe - Deconstructions' (8.226569) by Katrine Ring, "one of the few DJs at the international level who has specialized in classical music." The 'deconstructions' in question, if they can really be called that, are a number of remixes, making use of musique concrète, of various movements from the composer's series of chamber concertos, these heard in their original forms on a 'bonus' disc, arranged in the same order. Frankly, Dacapo should not have wasted their money on these tritest of 'experiments', which make William Orbit's 'Pieces in a Modern Style' albums (WEA 3984 289572, Decca 478 2538) seem the acme of inspiration. Ring's are little more than the crudest splicings of Holmboe, frequently distorted, with simplistic sounds - sneezes, bird twitter, electronics and the like - that are of no emotional or intellectual benefit to fish or fowl, let alone human listener.
 
On the other hand, the disc is almost worth the asking price for Ring's booklet notes, in which she explains, with a straight face, the types of problems faced by a DJ when mixing 'classical music' - the impossibility of "beat-mixing", the "far too many notes" and so on. There are assertions that will surprise many: "More and more classical artists and composers are deliberately using compression in their recordings to match the production of pop records." And others that will amuse: "I listened through all the chamber concertos and selected the suitable numbers (or movements, as they're called in classical music)." Ring's attempt to enlist Holmboe to her cause through selective quotation is more of a shanghaiing.
 
As far as the impressive originals are concerned, however, the booklet helpfully lists the CDs the tracks were drawn from, along with the various soloists heard. Those chamber concertos, released in the 1990s, languish by comparison in the back catalogue, but if this more recent batch is any measure, the many recordings still to come from Dacapo of one of Denmark's - and Europe's - finest twentieth-century composers will be snapped up without hesitation by all music lovers. Meanwhile, there is much more Holmboe on Danacord and especially BIS.  

Byzantion
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk

See also review of the guitar disc by Gary Higginson
 

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

 
Full Contents List:
 
Concertos
Viola Concerto, op.189 (1992) [21:19]
Concerto for orchestra (1929) [13:12]
Violin Concerto no.2, op.139 (1979) [24:44]
Erik Heide (violin)
Lars Anders Tomter (viola)
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Dmitri Slobodeniouk
rec. De Geerhallen, Norrköping, Sweden, 13-17 June 2011.
DACAPO 6.220599 [59:18] (SACD)
 
Chamber Symphonies
Chamber Symphony no.1, op.53 (1951) [17:02]
Chamber Symphony no.2 'Elegy', op.100 (1968) [29:10]
Chamber Symphony no.3 'Frise', op.103a (1969-70) [22:51]
Lapland Chamber Orchestra/John Storgårds
rec. Rovaniemi Church, Finland, 31 March and 1 April 2011.
DACAPO 6.220621 [69:03]
 
Chamber Music II
Eco - Trio for clarinet, cello and piano, op.186 (1991) [13:19]
Aspects, for wind quintet, op.72 (1957) [16:38]
Sonata for solo cello, op.101 (1968-69) [14:03]
Quartetto Medico, for flute, oboe, clarinet and piano, op.70 (1956)
Sextet, for flute, clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola and cello, op.114 (1973) [15:27]
Ensemble MidtVest
rec. HEART (Herning Museum of Contemporary Art), Herning, Denmark, 3-6 October 2011.
DACAPO 8.226074 [70:28]
 
Chamber Music I
Primavera, for flute, violin, cello and piano, op.55 (1951) [15:11]
Gioco, for violin, viola and cello, op.155 (1983) [13:23]
Sonata, for solo flute, op.71 (1957) [15:50]
Ballata, for violin, viola, cello and piano, op.159 (1984) [12:57]
Quartet, for flute, violin, viola and cello, op.90 (1966) [14:59]
Ensemble MidtVest
rec. HEART (Herning Museum of Contemporary Art), Herning, Denmark, 17-21 May 2010; 9 June 2010 (Sonata).
DACAPO 8.226073 [72:20] 
Solo and Chamber Works for Guitar
Guitar Sonata no.1, op.141 (1979) [15.40]
Guitar Sonata no.2, op.142 (1979) [11.31]
Five Intermezzi, for guitar, op.149 (1981) [10.01]
Duo Concertato, for guitar and violin, op.167 (1986) [8.24]
Parlare del Più e del Meno, for guitar, op.176 (1988) [10.57]
Canto e Danza, for recorder and guitar, op.191 (1992) [8.30]  
Seven Folk Ballads, for guitar (1983) [6.17]
Jesper Siveboek (guitar)
Bolette Roed (recorder)
Johannes Søe Hansen (violin)
rec. Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Hall, March, July 2011, February 2012
DACAPO 8.226143 [71.20]
 
A Hand for Holmboe - Deconstructions by Katrine Ring
Katrine RING (b.1960)
A Nice Cup of Tea, Please! [2:40]
Kaningrin (Rabbit Laughter) [3:42]
Skynd dig! (Hurry Hurry) [4:43]
Helikopter (Helicopter) [4:13]
Fuglene (The Birds) [5:47]
Undervejs (Ongoing) [5:02]
Bjornen kommer (The Bear Is Coming) [4:22]
Avra for Laura (Na na na na na) [3:21]
Vagn og Gunnar ryger pibe (Vagn and Gunnar Smoking Pipes) [5:55]
Vagn og Gunnar ryger pibe (Vagn and Gunnar Smoking Pipes) (basic jump style) [5:54] 
Vagn HOLMBOE (1909-1996)
Chamber Concerto no.4, op.30: II. Andante un poco tranquillo [5:24]
Chamber Concerto no.4, op.30: I. Allegro non troppo, a con brio [6:51]
Chamber Concerto no.1, op.17: I. Molto moderato [6:53]
Concerto No. 8 (Sinfonia Concertante), Op. 38: I. Allegro con brio [6:55]
Chamber Concerto no.2, op.20: I. Allegro con brio [10:00]
Chamber Concerto no.7, op.37: II. Allegretto con moto [5:22]
Chamber Concerto no.6, op.33: I. Andante - Allegro con brio [7:18]
Chamber Concerto no.9, op.39: III. Finale: Allegro [7:06]
 
Katrine Ring (electronics) (Ring)
Danish National Chamber Orchestra/Hannu Koivula (Holmboe)
Recorded and remixed 1997-2012.
DACAPO 8.226569 [45:39 + 56:09] 


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