Author Topic: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)  (Read 69571 times)

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karlhenning

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2009, 04:44:49 AM »
Yes, I've listened to all the symphonies (though I need to get to know them better yet) and a smattering of quartets and chamber concertos.  I've liked everything of Holmboe's that I have heard!

Offline The new erato

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #21 on: December 24, 2009, 02:55:00 AM »
I'm hearing rumours that dacapo is starting to record the string quartets. I'm aware of the older series with the Kontra quartet which mostly seems to be oop, so perhaps I would be even happier if they reissued them real cheap. Still, giving the amazing quality of recent dacapo issues of Nørgaard, Nielsen and Langgaard, this would be a very interesting event, with the only quorum being whether to buy them as they appear, or wait for the box.....

karlhenning

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #22 on: December 24, 2009, 05:41:30 AM »
(I don't think you mean quorum there, do you?)
 
I'll wait for the box;  I know I shall want 'em all.
 
What of the chamber concertos?!

Offline The new erato

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #23 on: December 24, 2009, 06:00:33 AM »
(I don't think you mean quorum there, do you?)

Probably not. I meant quandary; I think.....

Offline jowcol

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #24 on: December 24, 2009, 06:14:15 AM »
Funny that this thread came up-- I was planning a Holmboe post today -- I've been stuck on the first two movements of Holmboe's 5th for the last couple days, and can't force myself to listen to anything else.  Although the last movement doesn't seem to fit as well (a bit too happy), the first two movements are really dynamic, vital, and a wonderful mix of swagger and introspection-- I get a Vaughan Williams vs Shostakovitch death match vibe in a way.  I've liked all of the symphonies I've heard (opening movement of the 4th is great), but every time I look him up on my mp3 player the  Fifth just grabs me and insists on being listened to.

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Offline Christo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #25 on: December 24, 2009, 06:28:41 AM »
Funny that this thread came up-- I was planning a Holmboe post today -- I've been stuck on the first two movements of Holmboe's 5th for the last couple days, and can't force myself to listen to anything else.  Although the last movement doesn't seem to fit as well (a bit too happy), the first two movements are really dynamic, vital, and a wonderful mix of swagger and introspection-- I get a Vaughan Williams vs Shostakovitch death match vibe in a way.  I've liked all of the symphonies I've heard (opening movement of the 4th is great), but every time I look him up on my mp3 player the  Fifth just grabs me and insists on being listened to.

This looks like a rather apt description of my own sensation on hearing these symphonies - especially the Fifth, of which the very opening alone is sheer magic. It was in the early 1990s, and I decided to see the man hismelf. Which I did, in August 1995, in his home in the North of Zealand, Denmark.
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

kentel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #26 on: December 28, 2009, 04:50:43 AM »
Thank you for this thread, which I read with great interest;  I would like also to provide my little contribution to this discussion:

I do like his symphonies too, but they do not overwhelm me with enthusiasm (except the 5th and the 6th which are really masterpieces) as Sibelius' of V-W's do. I really enjoy their epic, often dark and enigmatic character, the originality of their developments, their sharp orchestration, their cold harmonies etc.

But, from time to time , I think that he overuses the couple timpani/brass with massive dissonant chords. I feel also, that some of these symphonies (the Borealis or the 12th, eg) are deeply influenced by Hindemith - both thematically, harmonically and orchestrally.  For me it's a pity, since Holmboe HAS a very strong musical personality. But I think that it is better expressed in the string quartets, the chamber concertos and above all in his magnificent Preludes for orchestra, which are among the best works for orchestra I've ever heard.

Therefore, I would thoroughly recommend to anybody who is not (yet) familiar with Holmboe, to begin with the Preludes for Orchestra (2 Dacapo cds), and especially the Prelude to a Dolphin and the Prelude to a Willow Tree. They are colourful, evocative and extraordinary poetic pieces.

Among the 4 Metamorphoses for orchestra, I would also recommend the 3rd "Epilogue" and the 4th "Tempo Variabile", which are the kind of fantastic epic and dark pieces, typical of this Holmboe's style I was talking about.

The Chamber Concertos are another accomplishment among Holmboe's works, especially the 1st (for piano), the 5th (for trio) and the 11th (for trumpet). They are written in a lighter and more luminous vein than the other orchestral pieces.

As far as the string quartets are concerned, I love almost all of them, but the most captivating may be the 3, 7, 8, 12, 13 and the 16. I don't like that much the last ones (17-21) which I find too austere and bitter, and, I must admitt, a little bit boring in comparison with the others. The 9 and the 14 are not very good either in my opinion.

The Concertos : the marvellous and eerie Recorder Concerto and the misty 2nd Flute Concerto are wonderful.

The Symphonies : a lot has been  told here about them already; for me the 5th and the 6th are the most accomplished. I also like very much the 2nd, the 7th, the 9th and the In Memoriam Symphony. But contrary to Dundonnell, I consider Sæverud's symphonies more succesfull (better orchestration, more variety, and a perfectly original language) if you take the whole cycle into account. Well, that's only the way I feel it, absolutely subjective  :).

Chamber Music : except for the string quartets, I do not find Holmboe's chamber music very inspired. An excpetion may be the "Music with Horn" and the "Songe du Barde" for piano.

The Choir Music : Holmboe is very famous in Denmark for his choir pieces - they are really beautiful, but this may not be the easiest face to climb the Holmboe Mountain, as they are quite austere and sad. But for them who'd like to give it a try, I would recommend within the very long Liber Canticorum (about 4h) "Omnia Flumina", "Non est memoria" (Book I), "Benedict Domino Anima Mea" (Book II), "Dedique" (Book III) and "Domine non superbit" (Book IV), which are very beautiful light and ethereal pieces. I don't like at all the Nietszche Requiem (too long, too declamatory, too monotonous).

I guess that's all - hope it wasn't too long (I tried to make it short but...)

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #27 on: December 28, 2009, 08:27:48 AM »
Thank you for this thread, which I read with great interest;  I would like also to provide my little contribution to this discussion:

I do like his symphonies too, but they do not overwhelm me with enthusiasm (except the 5th and the 6th which are really masterpieces) as Sibelius' of V-W's do. I really enjoy their epic, often dark and enigmatic character, the originality of their developments, their sharp orchestration, their cold harmonies etc.

But, from time to time , I think that he overuses the couple timpani/brass with massive dissonant chords. I feel also, that some of these symphonies (the Borealis or the 12th, eg) are deeply influenced by Hindemith - both thematically, harmonically and orchestrally.  For me it's a pity, since Holmboe HAS a very strong musical personality. But I think that it is better expressed in the string quartets, the chamber concertos and above all in his magnificent Preludes for orchestra, which are among the best works for orchestra I've ever heard.

Therefore, I would thoroughly recommend to anybody who is not (yet) familiar with Holmboe, to begin with the Preludes for Orchestra (2 Dacapo cds), and especially the Prelude to a Dolphin and the Prelude to a Willow Tree. They are colourful, evocative and extraordinary poetic pieces.

Among the 4 Metamorphoses for orchestra, I would also recommend the 3rd "Epilogue" and the 4th "Tempo Variabile", which are the kind of fantastic epic and dark pieces, typical of this Holmboe's style I was talking about.

The Chamber Concertos are another accomplishment among Holmboe's works, especially the 1st (for piano), the 5th (for trio) and the 11th (for trumpet). They are written in a lighter and more luminous vein than the other orchestral pieces.

As far as the string quartets are concerned, I love almost all of them, but the most captivating may be the 3, 7, 8, 12, 13 and the 16. I don't like that much the last ones (17-21) which I find too austere and bitter, and, I must admitt, a little bit boring in comparison with the others. The 9 and the 14 are not very good either in my opinion.

The Concertos : the marvellous and eerie Recorder Concerto and the misty 2nd Flute Concerto are wonderful.

The Symphonies : a lot has been  told here about them already; for me the 5th and the 6th are the most accomplished. I also like very much the 2nd, the 7th, the 9th and the In Memoriam Symphony. But contrary to Dundonnell, I consider Sæverud's symphonies more succesfull (better orchestration, more variety, and a perfectly original language) if you take the whole cycle into account. Well, that's only the way I feel it, absolutely subjective  :).

Chamber Music : except for the string quartets, I do not find Holmboe's chamber music very inspired. An excpetion may be the "Music with Horn" and the "Songe du Barde" for piano.

The Choir Music : Holmboe is very famous in Denmark for his choir pieces - they are really beautiful, but this may not be the easiest face to climb the Holmboe Mountain, as they are quite austere and sad. But for them who'd like to give it a try, I would recommend within the very long Liber Canticorum (about 4h) "Omnia Flumina", "Non est memoria" (Book I), "Benedict Domino Anima Mea" (Book II), "Dedique" (Book III) and "Domine non superbit" (Book IV), which are very beautiful light and ethereal pieces. I don't like at all the Nietszche Requiem (too long, too declamatory, too monotonous).

I guess that's all - hope it wasn't too long (I tried to make it short but...)

Just the way I like it, thanks.

I've had problems with the SQs. Partially, it could be the incisive recording, but I just never warmed to their language. I had 7-12, and everyone says that 13-15 was the cd to get, and now you mention No.13. Any "lengthy" thoughts concerning the SQs in general, or specific ones?
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #28 on: December 28, 2009, 08:36:20 AM »
Symphonies 6,7,8 and 10 are my favourites by this great composer.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

kentel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2009, 10:41:55 AM »
I've had problems with the SQs. Partially, it could be the incisive recording, but I just never warmed to their language. I had 7-12, and everyone says that 13-15 was the cd to get, and now you mention No.13. Any "lengthy" thoughts concerning the SQs in general, or specific ones?

Yes !

Here are a few short impressions about these quartets, as far as I can remember (I'll make it short) :

String quartet nr.1: gloomy, contemplative - very beautiful cello-violin duo in the 2nd mvt.
String quartet nr.2 : softly disonnant, more vivid than the previous one, a little bit Prokofiew-like
String quartet nr.3: a clear, meditative and luminous sadness; one of his bests
String quartet nr.4: dramatic, dark, unevently inspired with some very beautiful parts
String quartet nr.5 : austere and rough, with 2 central long slow movements.
String quartet nr.6 : vivid, almost virtuoso, joyful and shimmering
String quartet nr.7: very expressive, magical and powerful - again a masterpiece
String quartet nr.8: light, bright, soft and iridescent. - another great one.
String quartet nr.9 : harsh, tragic and mineral, a very static and oppressive atmosphere
String quartet nr.10 : harsh, sour and VERY austere.
String quartet nr.11: vivid and twinkling, a very beautiful one.
String quartet nr.12: Maybe the best of all: quiet, luminous, less chromatic than the others
String quartet nr.13: Lightly nostalgic - vivid and fluid, almost aquatic - splendid.
String quartet nr.14: gloomy, a little bit boring, but interesting pizzicato parts
String quartet nr.15: except for a not so good slow mvt, it is both vivacious and dark
String quartet nr.16: iridescent, colourful, light crystal clear - another wonderful one
String quartet nr.17 "mattinata" : delicate, gloomy, but not so captivating
String quartet nr.18 "glornata" : not very glornata, rather dull and gray
String quartet nr.19 "serata" : absolutely boring
String quartet nr.20 "notturno" : the best of the "day serie", less chromatic but still tasteless
String quartet nr.21 "sereno" : the last work, edited by Per Nørgård - gray and depressive.

In a way, it's difficult to warm to these string quartets, as they are rather cold and distanciated pieces: but they are full of colours, and the composer has a perfect command of quartet writing, which is rare (synthetic, organic, economic, expressive and meticulous) - the more you listen to them, the easier it becomes. In my opinion, the point is that you need to know which ones are worth listening several times.

These string quartets have no title, then I decided to imagine them. It sounds a bit heretic, but giving them a title helps me to remember their atmosphere - and as you have 21 quartets, I can tell that the trick is effective. I didn't write these titles here, as they are only refering to the images which came to my mind while listening. They may orientate you in a wrong direction.

To say it briefly :

- the series 1-8 is very good (= colourful, lighter, clear with subtle string textures)
- the day series 17-21 is not so good (= sad, gloomy, depressive and boring)
- the best ones : 3,7,8,12,13 & 16
- the very good ones : 2,3,4,5,6,11

In the 13-15 cd you have the 13 and the 15 which are really good
Obviously; this is only the way I feel it - if you like the sad and gray register, it could be the exact contrary

Offline The new erato

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #30 on: December 28, 2009, 12:58:23 PM »
Thank you for 2 great postings!

kentel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #31 on: December 28, 2009, 02:05:42 PM »
Merci ! I was actually wondering if these little impressions were worth the reading...

Offline Christo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #32 on: December 28, 2009, 02:38:08 PM »
Merci ! I was actually wondering if these little impressions were worth the reading...

Oh but please: they are! Many thanks indeed. Great and detailed description and evaluation of Holmboe's output. I'll listen anew to many of the pieces you mention - even have to learn the Preludes for Orchestra, but will do so now, after reading your opinion.

Great to see you in this forum - and to learn how well informed you are.
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #33 on: December 28, 2009, 08:34:37 PM »
Yea, great thoughts.

If you, who appear a sincere fan, don't like those last SQs, them wow, I can imagine... of course it makes me want to hear the "boring" one, haha!

Do you think Holmboe's and Simpson's SQs sound similar, especially H: 1-6, and S: 1-3? Yes, their utter frigidity is very forbidding, even moreso, IMO, than avant music, because H & S are actually denying you pleasure on purpose! The avant people go sooo far afield as to be from another planet, but H & S keep enough of the old structures to make their music familiar, but then use so many crushing dissonences that it just grates on the ear, no?

But, are you really happy with both the tight dacapo recording, and some of that wiry Kontra playing? Wouldn't you like to hear another cycle, and if so, by whom? I would just prefer a meatier recorded sound with some nice ambience. I feel these pieces' icy chill could use a little reverb "depth".

I'll admit that it was the Penguin Guide raves that forced me (they even like the last ones!?!), but I will look out for No.13 (unless you have links to the recordings you can send me :D,...yes, I've become shameless :P).

Now, onto Haydm! ::)

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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #34 on: December 29, 2009, 01:41:36 AM »
I've assembled quite a Holmboe collection and have been reviewing discs here and there on Amazon. With the String Quartets, I hardly know where to start since there are so many of them. My favourite quartets are those by Gubaidulina, Nørgård, Bártók and Carter. Where should I enter Holmboe's output?

kentel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #35 on: December 29, 2009, 03:43:42 AM »
Oh but please: they are! Many thanks indeed. Great and detailed description and evaluation of Holmboe's output. I'll listen anew to many of the pieces you mention - even have to learn the Preludes for Orchestra, but will do so now, after reading your opinion.

Great to see you in this forum - and to learn how well informed you are.

Thanks a lot for your welcome !! As a matter of fact, that's an illusion : I am not that informed, that's only some personnal feelings about this music. I guess you're a V-W geek, so you should love these Preludes more than anything else among Holmboe's works - the colors, the way he writes for the strings, etc. is definitely something for a V-W fan.

kentel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #36 on: December 29, 2009, 04:31:55 AM »
Do you think Holmboe's and Simpson's SQs sound similar, especially H: 1-6, and S: 1-3? Yes, their utter frigidity is very forbidding, even moreso, IMO, than avant music, because H & S are actually denying you pleasure on purpose! The avant people go sooo far afield as to be from another planet, but H & S keep enough of the old structures to make their music familiar, but then use so many crushing dissonences that it just grates on the ear, no?

Unfortunately, I know only 2 strings quartets by Simpson (could never find the others) : the 14th and the 15th. From this angle, and on the basis of what I know about Simpsons' music (eg the symphonies), I think that their personalities are very different. Simpson is not resigned, very nervous and rythmic, and Holmboe is much more meditative. Moreover, Holmboe's writing is purely contrapuntic, Simpsons is much less, so you generaly never get lost in Simpsons music. You have big structures, blazing effects, . With Holmboe, you have to concentrate much more on what you're listening.

But, are you really happy with both the tight dacapo recording, and some of that wiry Kontra playing? Wouldn't you like to hear another cycle, and if so, by whom? I would just prefer a meatier recorded sound with some nice ambience. I feel these pieces' icy chill could use a little reverb "depth".

Good question... It depends on how you're expecting a quartet to play : as for me, I hate the light, graceful, neat and cloying play with exagerated dynamics that you can hear so often, and which is still so trendy these days (mmm... maybe I won't give names   :D). I also deeply dislike the old-fashioned grave style with rough cellos and tremolos everywhere. I love the clear, sharp and well-balanced sound, and very few string quartets have it.

I think that the Kontra are very good, because they have a very clear sound, they almost never make any tremolos, and, I agree, they are rather wiry. But these string quartets are wiry, so... :).  The problem, and you get the point here, is the recording, which is very "flat" and boring. That sure does not help.

Right now, I think it would be fantastic to hear these quartets played by the Pacific String Quartet. I love their sound, and they did a great job on Carter's. Actually I think they were the best there. And they have the right sound, minus the wiry thing. But the Pacific Quartet playing Holmboe, this will never happen...

I'll admit that it was the Penguin Guide raves that forced me (they even like the last ones!?!), but I will look out for No.13 (unless you have links to the recordings you can send me :D,...yes, I've become shameless :P).

The problem with the last ones, is that when you see the titles "morning", "noon", "evening", "night", a lot of images comes to your mind, you're expecting some kind of evocative, impressionistic or descriptive music, and what you get is just the contrary. It's very depressive, gray and resigned; in order to start off on the right foot, you should imagine a rainy mid-winter monday, and then the morning, noon etc.

Now, onto Haydm! ::)

Give me a few more years for these ones  ;D But I can do it for Villa-Lobos !

kentel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #37 on: December 29, 2009, 04:48:24 AM »
I've assembled quite a Holmboe collection and have been reviewing discs here and there on Amazon. With the String Quartets, I hardly know where to start since there are so many of them. My favourite quartets are those by Gubaidulina, Nørgård, Bártók and Carter. Where should I enter Holmboe's output?

You are certainly not afraid of the austere and meditative internalized style, thus you should love all of them, no problem :) In my opinion you should try the 9th; after this one, the others will sound like pop music.


Offline CRCulver

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #38 on: December 31, 2009, 09:37:30 AM »
You are certainly not afraid of the austere and meditative internalized style, thus you should love all of them, no problem :) In my opinion you should try the 9th; after this one, the others will sound like pop music.

There's no seeds on the old torrents, so all I have are Volumes 5 and 6 of the Dacapo series (if you can help, PM me). Anyway, I decided to start with the 13th. With its folkloric and nocturnal qualities, the influence of Bartok here is undeniable. I've read many an interview with Holmboe where he praised Bartok, but with the exception of the Symphony No. 2 and the "night music" intermezzo of the Symphony No. 9, I've never heard much of the great Hungarian in Holmboe's symphonic music.

Does the example of Bartok show in most of Holmboe's SQs?

kentel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #39 on: December 31, 2009, 09:51:48 AM »
There's no seeds on the old torrents, so all I have are Volumes 5 and 6 of the Dacapo series (if you can help, PM me). Anyway, I decided to start with the 13th. With its folkloric and nocturnal qualities, the influence of Bartok here is undeniable. I've read many an interview with Holmboe where he praised Bartok, but with the exception of the Symphony No. 2 and the "night music" intermezzo of the Symphony No. 9, I've never heard much of the great Hungarian in Holmboe's symphonic music.

Does the example of Bartok show in most of Holmboe's SQs?

That's very interesting; I've never thought about it, but now you say it... there is clearly a connection. But I havn't heard Bartok quartets for years. Maybe it's time to go back to them...

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