Author Topic: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)  (Read 67457 times)

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Offline Guido

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Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« on: March 18, 2009, 06:25:12 AM »
No thread for this fine composer yet. I have long adored his cello concerto which seems both very modern (post modern) and very traditional simultaneously - it is beautifully written for cello and orchestra, imaginative, lyrical and powerful.

He is very highly regarded as a symphonist ('the greatest Danish symphonist after Nielsen') I think and I was just wondering if we had any fans of his symphonies here (Colin? :)). Where does one start?

Also I remember being profoundly moved when I heard his Requiem for Nietzsche - one of the most powerful 20th century choral works.
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Offline Christo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2009, 08:41:35 AM »
Big Holmboe fan here, as confessed many times before, often in less suitable places.

No time at this moment to tell exactly what and why. Enough for now to say that I even met the great man in person and spent a long Summer afternoon with him in his home in the countryside in the North of Sjaelland, some 25 miles from Copenhagen, in August 1995.

A great composer and an impressive man, too. He died a year later. I'm always moved again when I play his music, especially the symphonies, but also the concertos and the pieces you mention.
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Offline Guido

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2009, 09:08:52 AM »
Well if you feel you have time to post more of your thoughts here, I would be most interested to read them. Which are the finest symphonies in your opinion?
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2009, 10:30:59 AM »
Yeh, I will join in here later tonight :)

Offline donaldopato

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2009, 02:26:46 PM »
I always find his symphonies worth a listen. However for me the 8th "Sinfonia Boreale" stands out and is the one I tend to listen to the most. Compact, dramatic, organic, powerful and not a note wasted or out of place.
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2009, 03:39:01 PM »
In my opinion Holmboe is the most distinguished Scandinavian composer of the post Nielsen and Sibelius generations, a finer composer than Saeverud in Norway or even Rosenberg in Sweden. I would put him as one of the greatest symphonists of the 20th century.

Again..there is a good deal about Holmboe in the Scandinavian composers' thread already but he does fully deserve a thread of his own :) Johan(Christo) has written about Holmboe in that thread too and has had the huge honour and pleasure of actually meeting Holmboe.

I can't think easily of a finer set of symphonies than Holmboe's thirteen(fourteen if you include the Sinfonia In Memoriam of 1955) which, fortunately, received quite fantastic treatment from BIS with a provincial Danish orchestra(the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra) under the Welsh conductor Owain Arwel Hughes absolutely excelling themselves in marvellous performances which brought great joy to the composer(No.13 was dedicated to Hughes and Holmboe heard it performed shortly before his death). They are indisputably Nordic works, intense, brooding, often quite dark but with a spirituality and integrity which reminds me of British composers like Rubbra or Simpson. In other words, one knows immediately that this is a composer of real purpose who knows exactly what he wants to do-regardless of fashion-and whose work has a dignity which is hugely impressive.

I wouldn't want to single out a particular Holmboe symphony-but I would say that from No.5 onwards we are able to hear the mature Holmboe voice and that each symphony after that is a masterpiece using the technique of metamorphosis to continuously develop initial ideas. Sometimes, therefore, one has to listen to a Holmboe symphony with a lot of care and attention. Individual passages may not jump out at the listener, but the whole is undoubtedly much greater than any single part of the work.

The huge set of 13 Chamber Concertos(all of them recorded by Danacord) for all manner of instruments is well worth collecting as well. Nor should Holmboe's marvellous set of twenty-one string quartets be ignored. One of my favourite discs is the BIS recording of the Four Symphonic Metamorphoses(Hughes again but this time with the Aalborg orchestra)-tremendous, pithy examples of Holmboe's orchestral technique.

Guido has mentioned the Cello Concerto and the Requiem for Nietzsche but there is actually a lot of Holmboe which-amazingly-is still to make it to disc. I am utterly amazed that neither Dacapo in Denmark nor BIS in Sweden have recorded the four Chamber Symphonies or many of the concertos:

Violin Concerto (1938), Concertino No.1 for Violin, Viola and strings(1940), Concertino No.2 for Violin and strings(1940), Violin Concerto, op.127(1976), Violin Concerto No.2, op.139(1979), Viola, op.189, Concerto for Two Violins, Viola and Cello, op.195

are all still awaiting recording!

I am delighted that Guido started this thread and allowed a further opportunity to sing the praises of one of the 20th century's greatest composers(and that is NOT hyperbole ;D)

Offline Guido

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2009, 03:57:20 PM »
Thanks Colin - this is what I expected (and as I feared! ;D) - Another great composer to explore then!

Hmm... that complete symphonies box might have to wait a bit longer (it's a bit more expensive than the Atterberg...) Maybe I'll get it as a treat for myself for my birthday!  ;D
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karlhenning

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2009, 07:55:47 AM »
I always find his symphonies worth a listen. However for me the 8th "Sinfonia Boreale" stands out and is the one I tend to listen to the most. Compact, dramatic, organic, powerful and not a note wasted or out of place.

Thanks for prompting a revisitation!

Offline Tapio Dimitriyevich Shostakovich

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2009, 03:59:59 AM »
Some landmarks to start with?

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2009, 04:14:04 AM »
Some landmarks to start with?

The only thing close to a "landmark" I can think of is his 8th Symphony, already mentioned by others. Great piece.

He wrote a lot, so it's hard to know what's really good and what's not.

Not a landmark, but I'll put in a rec for his two brass 5tets - serious brass music is unfortunately quite rare.
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karlhenning

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2009, 04:40:33 AM »
Not a landmark, but I'll put in a rec for his two brass 5tets - serious brass music is unfortunately quite rare.

Speaking as someone who has written a bit for that medium, I should be keen to hear Holmboe's quintets.

Although I have yet to do the repeat listens which will give me purchase on the music's granularity . . . the whole of the symphony cycle I find exciting, inspired, marvelously colored.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2009, 05:00:31 PM »
As I've been trying to convince Dundonnel  about Sessions, it might seem strange that I've had problems with Holmboe/Simpson!  eh what???

And it's difficult for me to separate these two composers.

Maybe it's just the overwhelming intensity these two convey (especially Simpson).  Symphony "borealis" and Simpson's cosmic 9th aside, and leaving Simpson out of the argument for the purposes of the thread, let me just say that I know I supposed to like Holmboe, and I certainly respect him for the towering figure he is, but when I listened to his music I found myself liking Aulis Sallinen better, and I believe this is due just to my own stylistic taste and nothing more. So Holmboe for me is a composer I respect...ah, "cup of tea."

Of course being Mr. String Quartet I was obliged to hunt down the dacapo discs and I got 7, 8, 9 on ebay, and...I was reminded of Simpson's first three quartets @1951, and my only comment would be, yes, craftsmanship, yes, interesting ideas and rhythmic drive, but something didn't reaaallly touch me, like when I first heard Bartok's 3rd. 

I then tried 10, 11, 12, and I was yet again frustrated. Yes, he changes the number of movements a lot, and yes, there's a LOT there, but this time I was really ticked off.  I knew there had to be a masterpiece somewhere in there.  Would I have to go back to 1-6 to find an early charmer, or head into the great unknown where I feared I would only find unyielding intensity a la Simpson.  I read in the Penguin G that 13, 14, 15 IS the one to go for first, but since selling the ones I had, I have yet to return to Holmboe country.

I do actually have a LOT of Scandanavian quartets, for various reasons, so I can tell you that it really bugged me that I didn't warm up to Holmboe (and I HAVE tried other music other than the quartets). The Cello Cto was getting good marks on this thread.  That might be a place for me to start.

Rosenberg comes way before Holmboe, so it's not fair to compare, but for me, Rosenberg has a bit more of the earth in his quartets, the actual air of Sweden,                ( though not .in a nationalistic way, more nature).  Rosenberg wrote 6 quartets in 1957, so it IS interesting to see the crossroads between these two.

so, besides symphony "Borealis", what IS the Holmboe masterpiece?  Many say it's the 4 Symphonic movements.

btw- BIS cds are always VERRRY expensive$$$!!!  Wouldn't it be great that if you lived in a socialist country, they would automatically send you state sponsored entertainment??? yea, right! I forgot ABBA!!!!!haha
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2009, 11:39:44 AM »
In my view his greatest works are symphonies 6-8 and 10. He is a very important and impressive composer. Although I listen to Tubin more, I think that Holmboe is perhaps the greater composer.  He sent me a lovely reply to my fan letter a few years before he died. The opening of Symphony 4 is very impressive and that of No 6 very moving. This is searching, visionary and often poetic music - reminds me a bit of Rubbra in England.
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Offline Grazioso

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2009, 04:39:12 AM »
Thanks Colin - this is what I expected (and as I feared! ;D) - Another great composer to explore then!

Hmm... that complete symphonies box might have to wait a bit longer (it's a bit more expensive than the Atterberg...) Maybe I'll get it as a treat for myself for my birthday!  ;D

The BIS set of Holmboe's symphonies is worth every penny (as is the CPO box of Atterberg's!). This is really impressive music that I've been slowly digging into over the last few months. Even if you don't ultimately warm to him--though I did right away--you'll probably come to agree that he's a very substantial composer.
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Offline snyprrr

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2009, 05:26:38 PM »
I've been checking into Niels Viggo Bentzon, who studied with Holmboe.  His syms. 3-7 get rave reviews everywhere.  Is Bentzon the "secret" Holmboe?
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2009, 07:28:20 AM »
I've been checking into Niels Viggo Bentzon, who studied with Holmboe.  His syms. 3-7 get rave reviews everywhere.  Is Bentzon the "secret" Holmboe?

That is an interesting question :)

I really have not heard enough Bentzon to be able to rate him properly. The symphonies I have heard-Nos. 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8-are all impressive works, particularly Nos. 3 and 4. They are impressively serious, using the same sort of 'metamorphosis' technique emplyed by Holmboe. But Bentzon's style developed over time into something much more avant-garde. To what extent he maintained his earlier style in parallel with more experimental techniques I don't know because he was an astonishingly prolific composer-24 symphonies, 41 concertos(including eight piano concertos)! It is difficult to imagine that he maintained the same high standard throughout this huge worklist. The later music has gone almost entirely unrecorded.
Maybe Dacapo-when they have finished recording other Danish composers-will turn to Bentzon's music?

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2009, 10:41:42 AM »
I'm interesting in the music of Vagn Holmboe because my favourite composer is his student and lifelong friend Per Norgard. So far I've only heard the piano trio Nuigen but was rather underwhelmed. It's a little too foursquare and prim for me, like 1920s Stravinsky. Has Holmboe written anything that can be called gritty complexity?

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2009, 10:52:37 AM »
gritty complexity?- may I suggest Sessions syms. 6,7, & 9 on Argo?  ahhh....that felt good.

Dundonnel- I was checking Bentzon on Wilhelm Hanson Ed....at least 14 string quartets! oy!  but his discography is very spotty...the perfect composer for a woodwind collector, it appears!  He has a 20 min Volga Boatman variations for solo cello!  Some say 560 opp., some say 660...I'm quite interested in the syms 3-4 now.  I think it's only fair that Bentzon be included in this thread...lots of similarities...
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karlhenning

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2009, 08:11:17 AM »
TTT, a revisitation of this lovely post:

In my opinion Holmboe is the most distinguished Scandinavian composer of the post Nielsen and Sibelius generations, a finer composer than Saeverud in Norway or even Rosenberg in Sweden. I would put him as one of the greatest symphonists of the 20th century.

Again..there is a good deal about Holmboe in the Scandinavian composers' thread already but he does fully deserve a thread of his own :) Johan(Christo) has written about Holmboe in that thread too and has had the huge honour and pleasure of actually meeting Holmboe.

I can't think easily of a finer set of symphonies than Holmboe's thirteen(fourteen if you include the Sinfonia In Memoriam of 1955) which, fortunately, received quite fantastic treatment from BIS with a provincial Danish orchestra(the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra) under the Welsh conductor Owain Arwel Hughes absolutely excelling themselves in marvellous performances which brought great joy to the composer(No.13 was dedicated to Hughes and Holmboe heard it performed shortly before his death). They are indisputably Nordic works, intense, brooding, often quite dark but with a spirituality and integrity which reminds me of British composers like Rubbra or Simpson. In other words, one knows immediately that this is a composer of real purpose who knows exactly what he wants to do-regardless of fashion-and whose work has a dignity which is hugely impressive.

I wouldn't want to single out a particular Holmboe symphony-but I would say that from No.5 onwards we are able to hear the mature Holmboe voice and that each symphony after that is a masterpiece using the technique of metamorphosis to continuously develop initial ideas. Sometimes, therefore, one has to listen to a Holmboe symphony with a lot of care and attention. Individual passages may not jump out at the listener, but the whole is undoubtedly much greater than any single part of the work.

The huge set of 13 Chamber Concertos(all of them recorded by Danacord) for all manner of instruments is well worth collecting as well. Nor should Holmboe's marvellous set of twenty-one string quartets be ignored. One of my favourite discs is the BIS recording of the Four Symphonic Metamorphoses(Hughes again but this time with the Aalborg orchestra)-tremendous, pithy examples of Holmboe's orchestral technique.

Guido has mentioned the Cello Concerto and the Requiem for Nietzsche but there is actually a lot of Holmboe which-amazingly-is still to make it to disc. I am utterly amazed that neither Dacapo in Denmark nor BIS in Sweden have recorded the four Chamber Symphonies or many of the concertos:

Violin Concerto (1938), Concertino No.1 for Violin, Viola and strings(1940), Concertino No.2 for Violin and strings(1940), Violin Concerto, op.127(1976), Violin Concerto No.2, op.139(1979), Viola, op.189, Concerto for Two Violins, Viola and Cello, op.195

are all still awaiting recording!

I am delighted that Guido started this thread and allowed a further opportunity to sing the praises of one of the 20th century's greatest composers(and that is NOT hyperbole ;D)


Offline monafam

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2009, 04:00:55 AM »
Yet another composer I sort of stumbled across who I really enjoy.  I recently got his 1st, 3rd, & 10th symphonies and his Cello Concerto.  I've listened to the first three and hope to get to the Cello Concerto later today. 

Really enjoy what I'm hearing so far. 

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