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Holmboe: Chamber Symphonies [Hybrid SACD - DSD]

Vagn Holmboe , John Storgårds , Lapland Chamber Orchestra Audio CD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Lapland Chamber Orchestra
  • Conductor: John Storgårds
  • Composer: Vagn Holmboe
  • Audio CD (July 31, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: Da Capo [Naxos]
  • ASIN: B0081UG17M
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,051 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

World Premiere Recordings! Vagn Holmboe's three chamber symphonies span the period when the Danish composer immersed himself in symphonic works; they are a fine demonstration of his preoccupation with the processes of nature and the idea of musical metamorphosis. Lapland Chamber Orchestra and its conductor John Storgards focus on Vagn Holmboe's clear musical expression in three major works that have never been recorded.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
The Danish composer Vagn Holmboe has won considerable acclaim for his fourteen symphonies (hear them on a BIS box set), but beyond that mighty cycle for symphony orchestra, he also wrote three symphonic works for chamber orchestra in the 1950s and 1960s. Only with this 2012 Dacapo release have the Chamber Symphonies finally been recorded. John Storgårds leads the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland.

While Holmboe can be categorized as a neo-classicist, from the late Forties he drew inspiration from the organic writing of Sibelius and other Nordic forebears. One of the key concepts behind Holmboe's mature output is "metamorphosis", the unstoppable elaboration of material, even a small cell consisting of only three or four notes. In the Chamber Symphony No. 1 op. 53 (1951), for example, as the three notes stated by the French horn at the beginning form the basis for all four movements. However, in spite of some lovely moments, this doesn't quite rise to the same level as his symphonies for symphony orchestra of the same years.

Almost two decades pass before Holmboe's next works in this vein. The opening measures of the Chamber Concerto No. 2 (1968), subtitled "Elegy", features a new element of his orchestration, eerie use of pitched percussion at low dynamic. The oboe carries much of the movement, something unusual in his output. With the second movement -- well, I don't want to spoil some dramatic twists that should come as a surprise to the listener.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Minature Gems August 1, 2012
Format:Audio CD
I wasn't that familiar with Vagn Holmboe's music before I received this collection of his chamber symphonies. But after listening to them for a while, I would definitely like to explore the repertoire of this Danish composer further.

Written in 1951, the first of Holmboe's three chamber symphonies shows a composer in full command of his material. 1 somewhat spare and lean at the beginning, building inexorably as it moves towards its big climax at near the end of the work, before finishing quietly with a reappearance of material from the opening movement.

The second chamber symphony is subtitled "Elegy." Overall it's a quiet, atmospheric work. Holmboe makes effective use of mallet percussion instruments, especially the vibraphone, which brings a hint of unearthliness to the mix. Holmboe was a conservative composer, using a primarily tonal language, but the somber harmonies and downward-turning chromatic melodic motifs almost sound atonal.

Holbmoe's third chamber symphony, "Frise" is actually an orchestration of a choral work of the same name. Both were written to commemorate the unveiling a new frieze at a school. Although technically an occasional work, it's much more substantial than just a "grand opening" fanfare. Holmboe digs deep into the ensemble, bringing instruments to the fore in groups of two and three to spotlight a melody. It's a kaleidoscope of instrumental timbres changing in slow motion. The work has six movements, which, with a playing time of about 20 minutes, gives it a somewhat episodic quality and sounding very different in character than the first two works on the disc.

John Storgards leads the Lapland Chamber Orchestra in a compelling reading of these works. The performances sound fresh and engaging - even more so when played on an SACD player.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Vagn Holmboe, not exactly a household name, is often considered to be the most important Danish symphony composer since Carl Nielsen. His music is characteristically tonal and quite accessible. This recording of his Chamber Symphonies #1-4 offers a wonderful chance to get to know his symphonic output. Holmboe's works written largely between 1950 -1970 (of which these are prime examples) show a use of small motives and thematic fragments as the basis for larger scale construction (similar to what Sibelius did). It is said that his earlier works show the influence of composers such as Bartók and a little bit of Carl Nielsen and Dmitri Shostakovich. I think listening carefully to these very nice and dramatic works will reveal some of this but, in many ways, Holmboe's music is its own style and has a unique flavor. Interestingly, some of Holmboe's students are fairly well known in the contemporary European music scene, including the works of Per Norgard and Bent Sorensen.

Each of these works is a very fine piece deserving to be heard more often. The Chamber Symphony #1, dating from 1951, is the most "classical" sounding with a most attractive and tension filled Adagio that does bear more than a passing resemblance to Bartok and a driving, propulsive Allegro assai. The Chamber Symphony #2 has a very different feel to it. Subtitled "Elegy", Holmboe wrote this during a period of self-doubt (1968), during which he was at odds with some of his most talented young pupils (including Norgard and Ib Norholm). The actual controversies as well as the tone in the music is a near "battle" between some of the traditional sounds for which Holmboe became known and the modernism espoused by the younger generation.
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