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Vagn Holmboe: The Key Masterpieces

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Audio CD, August 25, 2009
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Product Details

  • Performer: Johan Reuter, Morten Zeuthen, Trio Ondine, Eva Ostergaard, Mikkel Futtrup
  • Orchestra: Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Danish Radio Sinfonietta
  • Conductor: Giordano Bellincampi, Hannu Koivula
  • Composer: Vagn Holmboe
  • Audio CD (August 25, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Dacapo Classical
  • ASIN: B002BW3PYS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,842 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Prelude No. 6 ('To the Seagulls and the Cormorants'), Op. 174
2. Chamber Concerto No. 2, for flute, violin, strings & percussion, Op. 20: Allegro con brio
3. Chamber Concerto No. 2, for flute, violin, strings & percussion, Op. 20: Intermezzo 1: Vivace
4. Chamber Concerto No. 2, for flute, violin, strings & percussion, Op. 20: Intermezzo 2: Adagio
5. Chamber Concerto No. 2, for flute, violin, strings & percussion, Op. 20: Finale: Allegro
6. Nuigen, for piano trio, Op. 129: 1. Allegro -
7. Nuigen, for piano trio, Op. 129: Intermezzo 1. Tranquillo
8. Nuigen, for piano trio, Op. 129: 2. Allegro -
9. Nuigen, for piano trio, Op. 129: Intermezzo 2. Affettuoso
10. Nuigen, for piano trio, Op. 129: 3. Allegro
See all 13 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. String Quartet No. 4, Op. 63: Andante passionato
2. String Quartet No. 4, Op. 63: Presto espansivo
3. String Quartet No. 4, Op. 63: Adagio affettuosa
4. String Quartet No. 4, Op. 63: Largo e semplice
5. String Quartet No. 4, Op. 63: Allegretto sereno
6. Requiem for Nietzsche, for voices & orchestra, Op. 84: Part 1: Prelude in the desert. Basel
7. Requiem for Nietzsche, for voices & orchestra, Op. 84: Part 2: The friends. Sils Maria. The third temptation
8. Requiem for Nietzsche, for voices & orchestra, Op. 84: Part 3: The moment. Gondola song. Jena
9. Requiem for Nietzsche, for voices & orchestra, Op. 84: Part 4: Ecce Homo. Weimar
10. Requiem for Nietzsche, for voices & orchestra, Op. 84: Part 5: Asgaardsreisen

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Perspectives chooses to honor VAGN HOLMBOE (1909-1996), acknowledged today as one of the great composers
of the 20th century. His international format emerges clearly in his outstanding series of string quartets and
chamber concertos. But in other chamber music too, and in solo and vocal works, a great personality comes into its
own with a highly distinctive Nordic sound. Vagn Holmboe would have been 100 years old in 2009. Dacapo
celebrates with this collection, which offers rare insight into the composer's musical world.


It must have been one heck of a year for Mozart in 1773. All of a sudden, without any sort of precursor or warning of any type, this miracle we shamelessly call the "Little" G-Minor, Symphony No. 25, emerges. What followed was a return to normalcy again, though there would be hints of this turbulence and toil in some other of the composer's work, in a rather more full fashion and aching with profundities. But none of this stems the shock of the piece; what in the world was happening to cause such an unparalleled explosion of passion and Sturm und Drang?

As usual, Mozart's letters provide us with few clues. The man seems completely divorced in day-to-day temperament from the goings-on in his music. The only things that may suggest a hint as to this experimental piece are the facts that he had been studying the music of Haydn (who after all, brought this style to a ravishing and stunning height) and that of Gluck, and that he did this on his trip to Vienna that same year. Obviously, he heard a lot of music, new music, and it left an impact. But Mozart was never one to directly imitate but always instead assimilate, and he took what he was hearing, returned to Salzburg, and put it to use. What struck him were no doubt the harsh syncopations, wide melodic leaps, curiously brash tremolos, and feverish intensity of the music he stumbled on. But even here we have something a little different: Haydn himself always provided a sense of respite within any single movement when writing in this style, but Mozart grabs you by the throat and doesn't let up. From bar 1 to the very last of the first movement the intensity is gripping and unrelenting. The second movement allows only a chance to catch one's breath--no sooner has the sweat started to dry than we are shoved into yet another movement of tragedy disguised as a Menuetto. The last movement takes us right back to where we started, and stubbornly refuses to allow any sense of resolution or a happy ending. This is storm and stress of a most merciless kind, and thank God for it.

This is Volume 7 of Adam Fischer's new complete series for dacapo. It is shaping up quite nicely, especially now that we are heading into the biggies. Fischer's venture into Haydn on Nimbus (now Brilliant Classics) some years ago has met with mixed reviews ever sense, most feeling that as the later symphonies approached the quality declined. This did not prevent Lynn René Bayley from sticking them into the Fanfare Hall of Fame in 32:2. I have mixed feelings about those readings, but as we are far from a perfect cycle of Haydn symphonies, I can certainly appreciate the effort. This current Mozart compendium is more mature in approach and has even a better chance of making the vaunted Hall one day.

I used to think that Fischer was just a victim of the infamous Nimbus reverb when recording his Haydn, but we still encounter a lot of that in the Danish Radio Concert Hall in Copenhagen, though tamed a bit. What is different in quality is the orchestra; the Danes playing as well as the Concertgebouw did for the Krips series on Philips, my favorite in the middle Mozart symphonies to this point. Those reading are a little larger in scope, the string playing unmatched, and Krips had a wonderful sense of these works like few others; but Fischer cannot be shortchanged, as his extraordinary dynamic contrasts, fervent string-snapping passion, and unanimity of ensemble show a group that is well rehearsed and well disciplined. The SACD sound only adds to the excitement and desirability of this release.

What of the other symphonies here? I made a big stink about No. 25 because of its unusual position in the Mozart canon, but the other works are played with equal alacrity and sense of style, modern, up-tempo, yet reasonable on all counts. To me, they are consistently underrated by those who think that early-to-middling Mozart symphonies are just pre-sonata-form exercises with training wheels. They are not established four-movement beauties as of yet, following instead the three-movement pre-Classical sinfonia form instead, but still gems of the rarest kind. When we get to the higher 20s and early 30s numbers, it will be easier to make some comparisons with conductors like Szell and Klemperer, but for now Fischer is topping the charts and may well stay there when all is said and done. -- Fanfare, Steven E. Ritter, January 2010

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephan L. Burton on September 30, 2012
Format: Audio CD
On the one hand, this is all brilliant stuff, beautifully performed, and in terrific sound.

On the other hand, it's just crazy to release something under the title "Vagn Holmboe: The Key Masterpieces" that doesn't include any of his symphonies!

I mean, c'mon...the 8th & 10th symphonies, among others, are works that weigh more heavily on the scale of the ages than the 4th String Quartet or the 2nd Chamber Concerto (wonderful as both those works are).

Still, if this set wins anybody over to Holmboe's cause, it will have done it's job. And, for the moment, at least, it's the cheapest way to get the amazing *Requiem for Nietzsche*.
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Format: Audio CD
This 2CD set is decidedly *not* Vagn Holmboe's "key masterpieces", but rather a sampler of the composer's work compiled from earlier releases by the Dacapo label. By any measure, Holmboe's Symphony No. 8 and perhaps others of his symphonies would count as "key masterpieces", but Dacapo never recorded them so they cannot appear here (you can hear these fantastics symphonies on BIS, however). Instead, this we get just a grab bag of chamber works, most taken out of their original context, and a 50-minute oratorio. Few of these can be ranked among Holmboe's best works.

Holmboe had a long career, spanning the 1930s to the 1990s, but he remained committed throughout to a neoclassical style. His early works are roughly comparable to Hindemith, but with very distinctive orchestration and an awareness of Bartók spicy harmonies and love of folk music. The Chamber Concerto No. 2 op. 20 (1940) is one of a series of twelve such works that Holmboe wrote just as he was developing his own voice.

From about 1950 on, however, Holmboe drew heavy inspiration from the organic writing of Sibelius. Holmboe's termed his own personal take on the Nordic school the "metamorphosis principle". This kind of writing, where every step is powerfully linked to the one before, is given a fine showcase in the Sinfonia No. 1 for String Orchestra op. 73a (1957) and the String Quartet No. 4 op. 63 (1954).

From the late 1960s on, Holmboe's style became more austere, even bleak at time. The three-movement Cello Sonata op.
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