Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

CD Spotlight

TRANSPARENTLY COLOURFUL

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'... chamber music for orchestra, beautifully made.'

The Preludes for Sinfonietta of Vagn Holmboe -
with PATRIC STANDFORD

 

Vagn Holmboe, the leading Danish 20th century symphonist after Nielsen (Nielsen died in 1931; his 6th and last symphony was completed in 1925) was born in 1909 and died just five years ago, having given the world over 400 works covering the breadth of involvement. They range from symphonic orchestral pieces to string quartets -- a medium in which he was both prolific and powerful -- sacred choral pieces, a few songs, some with instrumental accompaniment (his Three Eskimo Songs of 1966 accompany the voice with clarinet and drums!) and a handful of piano works -- which (like Rodrigo) was surprising in a composer who was married to a pianist, the Romanian Meta Graf.

Holmboe is a serious composer. I'm not intending to be frivolous, but I do accept that many are glib about the term 'serious'. What I mean is that Vagn Holmboe is a composer utterly serious about his commitment to creating a purely musical dialogue -- not music with stories, or music to impress this or that fashionable coterie, or music directed intentionally at good box office returns. All that may be, and often is, very good music, but not always serious. Holmboe's craft is one of a musical sculptor, or better still a weaver of themes, lyrical flowing lines, into symphonic tapestries, strong and gently, transparently colourful. A serious composer!

After his single movement 7th Symphony of 1950, structurally following the one Sibelius completed in 1924, Holmboe turned his interest more toward the smaller orchestral ensemble and stayed with it for the rest of his life. Among the finest of his autumnal achievements are the set of ten Preludes, written in his late 70s and inscribed to Robert Layton, the British musicologist who is close to Scandinavian music.

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Copyright © 4 March 2001 Patric Standford, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK

 

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