'... 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
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.
Copyright © 4 March 2001
Patric Standford, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK
CD INFORMATION - DACAPO 8.224123
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