Author Topic: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)  (Read 124245 times)

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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #660 on: October 07, 2020, 03:54:45 PM »

I'd say maybe the disc with 2/5/6  or the one with 10/11/12 (I think no.11 is one of the easiest ones to get a handle on).


Do you find the quality of the 4tets is very even (like DSCH)? Or are some clearly better than others?
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Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #661 on: October 07, 2020, 05:07:20 PM »
Do you find the quality of the 4tets is very even (like DSCH)? Or are some clearly better than others?

I think the quality is fairly even. Obviously there are some that I've personally responded to a little more than others, but I can't say I think of any of them as particularly weak. Any recommendation of where to start would be based on which ones I think are easier to grasp, because a lot of Holmboe's music is a little hard to unlock on a first listen.

EDIT: I think the sound on the 1/3/4 disc is not as good as the later ones.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2020, 05:23:36 PM by Madiel »
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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #662 on: October 07, 2020, 08:31:55 PM »
For the symphonies, Da Capo actually told me they were looking at a cycle of recordings when I visited their offices in 2015 (yes, I did do that). I guess it didn't happen.

Whenever Dacapo has re-recorded something already done on BIS, I have always been disappointed. I know that people talk about “acclaimed producer Preben Iwan”, but Dacapo recordings always feel flat and lifeless to me, even the SACDs.

With regard to Holmboe’s String Quartets, I have a hard time telling them apart. Except for the very last ones, they are written in more or less the same language with the same approaches to form. I have been meaning to go through the whole cycle again and note down on a piece of paper which quartets impressed me the most, so that I can remember to go to those in future listening. Otherwise, it’s a big blur.

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #663 on: October 07, 2020, 09:24:19 PM »
Um, to be honest I'm not sure there is quite such a thing as a good starter... It's a bit like Shostakovich in that there really aren't any 'early' quartets (whereas there are plenty of early symphonies). And the more approachable ones are kind of scattered around.

I'd say maybe the disc with 2/5/6  or the one with 10/11/12 (I think no.11 is one of the easiest ones to get a handle on).

The first volume by the Nightingale Quartet was actually already supposed to be out, but has been pushed back by the pandemic. I'm now seeing January as a release date?

I'd also recommend the Kontra Quartet's 1, 3, and 4. I find it difficult to pick favorites among Holmboe's quartets, but #4 and #5 rank pretty highly for me.

Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #664 on: October 08, 2020, 01:22:34 AM »
Whenever Dacapo has re-recorded something already done on BIS, I have always been disappointed. I know that people talk about “acclaimed producer Preben Iwan”, but Dacapo recordings always feel flat and lifeless to me, even the SACDs.

With regard to Holmboe’s String Quartets, I have a hard time telling them apart. Except for the very last ones, they are written in more or less the same language with the same approaches to form. I have been meaning to go through the whole cycle again and note down on a piece of paper which quartets impressed me the most, so that I can remember to go to those in future listening. Otherwise, it’s a big blur.

On BIS vs Da Capo are you talking about Holmboe specifically or more generally?
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #665 on: October 08, 2020, 07:06:45 AM »
With regard to Holmboe’s String Quartets, I have a hard time telling them apart. Except for the very last ones, they are written in more or less the same language with the same approaches to form. I have been meaning to go through the whole cycle again and note down on a piece of paper which quartets impressed me the most, so that I can remember to go to those in future listening. Otherwise, it’s a big blur.

Not a good sign, IMHO. Though to be fair, if I listened to all of Haydn's quartets in a row, I might have the same impression.
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Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #666 on: October 08, 2020, 07:37:58 AM »
Differentiating the expression more could be one of the hopes for the new quartet cycle.
After all, the symphonies can be quite different from each other (and probably even more, than it is the case with the BIS set, cf. also the other, old LP recordings of symphonies 7, 8, 10 ...
« Last Edit: October 08, 2020, 07:46:17 AM by MusicTurner »

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #667 on: October 08, 2020, 10:52:27 AM »
I found the complete Da Capo cycle on YouTube and listened to #2. Sounds a lot like Bartok. Very cool. I look forward to exploring more.
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Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #668 on: October 08, 2020, 11:10:06 AM »
Yes, and I've never been sure to what extent Holmboe was directly influenced by Bartok, and to what extent the similarity reflects his interest in (and direct experience with) the same folk music that Bartok studied. I don't ever feel that Holmboe directly copied Bartok, but there's a definite affinity of style there. And the similarity wasn't always apparent -- it's very strong in the first three quartets, but then less so in 4, 5, and 6 imo (except for the scherzo movements of 4 and 6). Then it's again strong in the 2nd movement of 7, and crops up from time to time before disappearing altogether after the 14th quartet. Holmboe's late music, from the early 1970's on (in all genres) is very different from his earlier work, and the change probably has much to do with his rejection of the (relative) avant-gardism of his student Per Norgard and other composers of that generation.

That's not to say that his later music is completely devoid of eastern European influence - listen e.g. to one of his last works, Haiduc for violin and piano, or to his very late Viola Concerto.

Online T. D.

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #669 on: October 08, 2020, 07:18:49 PM »
Thanks, interesting discussion. I've been looking for 20th (or 21st?) century string quartet cycles to explore (off the top of my head have Bartok, DSCH, Carter, Weinberg, Britten, Tippett, Martinu, Haba, Ben Johnston, David Diamond and some others whose names escape me). I'm reading enough lukewarm comments on the Kontra Quartet to steer me away from the Da Capo set. Will try to audition 1 disc, search  Youtube, etc.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2020, 09:07:56 PM by T. D. »

Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #670 on: October 08, 2020, 07:53:26 PM »
I'm reading enough lukewarm comments on the Kontra Quartet to steer me away from the Da Capo set.

Well, finding other options is not simple, and you'll only find older recordings that probably don't have great sound.

http://vagn-holmboe-discography.blogspot.com/2015/03/string-quartets.html

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Online T. D.

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #671 on: October 08, 2020, 08:29:53 PM »
Well, finding other options is not simple, and you'll only find older recordings that probably don't have great sound.

http://vagn-holmboe-discography.blogspot.com/2015/03/string-quartets.html

Thanks, I see the lack of options. That same issue (mixed reviews of only available complete set) arose with the Myaskovsky quartet cycle I'm also considering.

Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #672 on: October 08, 2020, 08:45:48 PM »
Thanks, I see the lack of options. That same issue (mixed reviews of only available complete set) arose with the Myaskovsky quartet cycle I'm also considering.

Really, the best thing to do is to try some samples and see what you think. I do know some people find the sound 'dry'. Personally I don't have a problem with it, except I think the disc with quartets 1, 3 and 4 is slightly inferior sound to the others.

The alternative is to wait until the Nightingale Quartet's first volume is finally released, hopefully in January. I'll certainly be interested to hear if it's noticeably different from Kontra.

And of course I personally find the music pretty fascinating but that's just me!
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Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #673 on: October 08, 2020, 08:54:48 PM »
Oh. Classics Today has in fact reviewed the first Nightingale volume.

https://www.classicstoday.com/review/a-new-vagn-holmboe-quartet-cycle-begins/

Which is weird if it's not coming out until January as I'd seen on one website. And the buying link from Classics Today goes to Arkiv Music, which also says January. But then it says 'in stock'...
« Last Edit: October 08, 2020, 08:56:33 PM by Madiel »
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Online T. D.

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #674 on: October 08, 2020, 09:33:04 PM »
Thanks. Rather timely! That new release is definitely one to consider.
In the meantime, I found a compromise. Bought the Kontra Q's 2-CD Langgaard set for $8 used. Cheap way to evaluate the Kontras' sound and hear some interesting new (to me) music, while deferring decisions on Holmboe.

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #675 on: October 09, 2020, 04:39:46 AM »
I'm not sure I'd make a blanket statement that the Kontras' readings of the Holmboe quartets are problematic, or not so good, or whatever derogatory adjective you want to use. Without other interpretations to compare them against, it is difficult to make any such judgment, and so I'll be interested to hear the Nightingale version. I do agree with Madiel that the audio quality on the Kontras' first CD (1, 3, and 4) is a bit weird, and needs a little tweaking of the equalizer settings - and surround sound (I think the recording might be out of phase - to sound really good. I'd say the same thing of the audio on #6 (but NOT 2 and 5, on the same CD). Those technical complaints aside, I'm generally pleased with the Kontras' musicality in these quartets, and they certainly sound to my ears like idiomatic Holmboe through and through.

BTW, something to keep in mind re: Holmboe's string quartets: there are NO "early" works among them. #1 comes between the 6th and 7th Symphonies and is remarkably mature. I listened to it yesterday (Kontra) for the first time in about a year, and I was enchanted by the second movement (especially) with its arresting, forte (or maybe even fortissimo) double-stopped passages and constant changes of texture and dynamics. It all sounds quasi-Bartokian, but you'd never mistake it for Bartok - Holmboe has very much his own distinctive voice by that point in his output.

Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #676 on: October 09, 2020, 04:49:19 AM »
As a side remark, Holmboe says in an interview from his house, available on you-tube, that he had composed 10 (!) further, unofficial string quartets too, in his early years ...

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #677 on: October 09, 2020, 04:52:15 AM »
As a side remark, Holmboe said in an interview from his house, that he had composed 10 (!) further, unofficial string quartets too in his early years ...

Quite true! Looking through this list of his works, I'm always awed by how prolific a composer he was... and by how much of his music has yet to be recorded, or in many cases even performed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_compositions_by_Vagn_Holmboe

Edit: that interview also features the Koppel Quartet (I think) playing the first movement of Holmboe's Quartet #6 -- definitely not to be missed, and a bit different from the Kontras' reading.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2020, 04:53:50 AM by krummholz »

Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #678 on: October 09, 2020, 05:10:20 AM »
Yes, if including the early ones, I'm not aware of any other 20th century composers reaching that number, though Ian Wilson is past 20 too ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_string_quartet_composers

(Among his compatriots, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen seems to have composed 14, and Niels Viggo Bentzon 16).
« Last Edit: October 09, 2020, 05:16:30 AM by MusicTurner »

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #679 on: October 10, 2020, 07:09:44 AM »
Oh. Classics Today has in fact reviewed the first Nightingale volume.

https://www.classicstoday.com/review/a-new-vagn-holmboe-quartet-cycle-begins/

Which is weird if it's not coming out until January as I'd seen on one website.

Labels right now have to space out their releases, because COVID is preventing them from making new recordings. So, this new Holmboe SQ recording is finished and can go out to the reviewers already, but Dacapo feels January would be the best month to release it. (And ordinarily review copies are sent out 1.5–3 months in advance of release anyway.)