Author Topic: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)  (Read 142106 times)

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Online foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #720 on: July 01, 2021, 04:54:48 AM »
Dunno, maybe Kairos isn't your cup of tea, then. It's one of the few Holmboe works that grabbed me immediately, especially Sinfonia II. It's very austere, brooding music, the kind of thing that puts me in mind of a desolate, late autumn landscape. The other Sinfonias have different characters - the first seems sunnier, the third by turns turbulent and mysterious. And the movements of the fourth (the interjected movements in Kairos) seem to inhabit a very different, almost expressionistic world.

But if it doesn't move you, then it doesn't... there's plenty of other Holmboe to explore.

Agreed. No-one is going to shoot me for not connecting to Kairos, but it feels like having a splinter that I can't shake. I want to like it, because I love so much else in his oeuvre, but it doesn't find a resting place, despite the fleeting snippets and allusions to the symphonies hidden in there. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sitting here with toothpicks down my nails or wearing a hair shirt about it, but it is a shame.

Meh. We'll see.

I do like your take on it, mind...

I feel similarly. Holmboe's music rarely grabs me on first hearing, and some works (e.g. 9th Symphony) have taken many hearings for me to digest and come to terms with. His train of musical thought usually requires a lot of focus to follow, even in those works where the music is superficially attractive and easy on the ear - I am thinking here of some of the Preludes for Chamber Orchestra. It is music that rewards repeated hearings - one characteristic without which I soon lose interest in a work.

I've come to the conclusion over the years that those pieces of music that embed deepest in the soul, are those that took me most effort to fully appreciate. Holmboe is certainly one of those composers. Thanks for the reassurance!
« Last Edit: July 01, 2021, 05:48:50 AM by foxandpeng »

Online foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #721 on: July 01, 2021, 06:12:27 AM »
I feel similarly. Holmboe's music rarely grabs me on first hearing, and some works (e.g. 9th Symphony) have taken many hearings for me to digest and come to terms with. His train of musical thought usually requires a lot of focus to follow, even in those works where the music is superficially attractive and easy on the ear - I am thinking here of some of the Preludes for Chamber Orchestra. It is music that rewards repeated hearings - one characteristic without which I soon lose interest in a work.

Actually, you've really hit the nail on the head according to Holmboe himself, here. You are a wise man!

‘In all music of any importance and quality, the different details have their necessary place within the whole. They must be perceived in their context and registered so securely that they do not escape attention. If they do, there will be gaps in the comprehension of the work, and it will soon become incomprehensible and, with that, tiresome. But if the details can be connected in the listener’s consciousness, if they can be recognised as they recur later in a similar or maybe altered guise, they will be connected little by little in the listener’s consciousness and will form the totality - the nature and character of which, thereby become comprehensible. The music and its progress are given a priori, but listeners must themselves recreate the music in their minds to be able to grasp it, and for that to happen, the ability to recognise, to remember what is heard, is necessary. People who listen attentively and who have some experience in listening will easily be able to maintain their impressions and recreate them mentally, and thus have the opportunity to experience the music in the way it is intended by the composer and played by the performer.’*

* Music – the Inexplicable is published by Toccata Press in the volume Experiencing Music – A Composer’s
Notes, translated, edited and introduced by Paul Rapoport.

Online Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #722 on: July 01, 2021, 03:48:34 PM »
Oh, that's a cool quote.

Re Kairos: I definitely got to know each of the 3 'main' Sinfonias separately first, and I think I tackled them in order of length (shortest first).

But they are very austere, 'pure' music. That's kind of inevitable when all that you have is string lines moving against each other. I wouldn't sit through the whole Kairos very often.

The 4th Sinfonia has a very different character, and not just because it's split up into short movements. It also arrived during one of Holmboe's more marked style changes, when he was being a bit more modern (partly under the influence of some of his own students).
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Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #723 on: July 01, 2021, 04:13:09 PM »
Actually, you've really hit the nail on the head according to Holmboe himself, here. You are a wise man!

‘In all music of any importance and quality, the different details have their necessary place within the whole. They must be perceived in their context and registered so securely that they do not escape attention. If they do, there will be gaps in the comprehension of the work, and it will soon become incomprehensible and, with that, tiresome. But if the details can be connected in the listener’s consciousness, if they can be recognised as they recur later in a similar or maybe altered guise, they will be connected little by little in the listener’s consciousness and will form the totality - the nature and character of which, thereby become comprehensible. The music and its progress are given a priori, but listeners must themselves recreate the music in their minds to be able to grasp it, and for that to happen, the ability to recognise, to remember what is heard, is necessary. People who listen attentively and who have some experience in listening will easily be able to maintain their impressions and recreate them mentally, and thus have the opportunity to experience the music in the way it is intended by the composer and played by the performer.’*

* Music – the Inexplicable is published by Toccata Press in the volume Experiencing Music – A Composer’s
Notes, translated, edited and introduced by Paul Rapoport.

Great quote! Holmboe was indeed a wise man. Myself, I may be wizened but not wise, and I am most certainly not a man!  ;)

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #724 on: July 01, 2021, 04:18:19 PM »
The 4th Sinfonia has a very different character, and not just because it's split up into short movements. It also arrived during one of Holmboe's more marked style changes, when he was being a bit more modern (partly under the influence of some of his own students).

Yes, as I recall it was written around 1961 or 1962, about 3 to 4 years after the other Sinfonias. I've always suspected he had the idea for Kairos in mind when he wrote it, as it doesn't really work on its own (imo), and it takes some of the same material that pervades the other three and places it in a VERY different, rather dream-like context. I always find those movements disturbing - they suggest to me brief glimpses of madness, or of a nightmare.

Online Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #725 on: July 01, 2021, 05:05:35 PM »
Yes, as I recall it was written around 1961 or 1962, about 3 to 4 years after the other Sinfonias. I've always suspected he had the idea for Kairos in mind when he wrote it, as it doesn't really work on its own (imo), and it takes some of the same material that pervades the other three and places it in a VERY different, rather dream-like context. I always find those movements disturbing - they suggest to me brief glimpses of madness, or of a nightmare.

I definitely think he had the Kairos idea by the time of the 4th sinfonia, yes. It's not clear exactly when that idea came about, but the 4th one was written in 1962, first performed in January 1964, and 1964 is also when the complete Kairos was published together.
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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #726 on: July 01, 2021, 11:32:48 PM »
Great quote! Holmboe was indeed a wise man. Myself, I may be wizened but not wise, and I am most certainly not a man!  ;)

Whoops! hangs head in shame ... profound apologies.

My mistake doesn't apply to your good sense, however 😁.

I need to revisit Kairos. I am used to struggling with Holmboe over repeated listening until I have an epiphany that allows me to enjoy and then love his work, but Kairos is harder for some reason. I can get it more easily as separate sinfonias with 73d as a postscript oddly, but I find it wearying together. I'll take another run, applying the wisdom shared here.


Re Kairos: I definitely got to know each of the 3 'main' Sinfonias separately first, and I think I tackled them in order of length (shortest first).

But they are very austere, 'pure' music. That's kind of inevitable when all that you have is string lines moving against each other. I wouldn't sit through the whole Kairos very often.

Helpful insight!
« Last Edit: July 01, 2021, 11:35:46 PM by foxandpeng »

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #727 on: July 02, 2021, 02:35:17 AM »
Whoops! hangs head in shame ... profound apologies.

No worries! How could you have known? Gender is invisible through ascii text...

Quote
My mistake doesn't apply to your good sense, however 😁.

I need to revisit Kairos. I am used to struggling with Holmboe over repeated listening until I have an epiphany that allows me to enjoy and then love his work, but Kairos is harder for some reason. I can get it more easily as separate sinfonias with 73d as a postscript oddly, but I find it wearying together. I'll take another run, applying the wisdom shared here.

Like @Madiel, I don't often sit through the entire Kairos either... maybe once a year or so. Other than 73d, the individual Sinfonias work quite well as stand-alone pieces, especially 73b (IMHO). If they work better that way for you, who's to argue?

Online foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #728 on: July 02, 2021, 04:46:45 AM »
No worries! How could you have known? Gender is invisible through ascii text...

Like @Madiel, I don't often sit through the entire Kairos either... maybe once a year or so. Other than 73d, the individual Sinfonias work quite well as stand-alone pieces, especially 73b (IMHO). If they work better that way for you, who's to argue?

Thank you. No offence was intended, so I am relieved that none was taken!

I think my frustration is because VH intended them, at least on occasion, to be knit together as a commentary upon or insight into time as an experienced moment, a passing instant to be captured. Without getting all philosophical, I want to experience his moment with this layered and complex music. It can obviously be enjoyed on my terms rather than his (how very postmodern of me... *puts down the Barthes and backs away slowly*), which I am seeking to do, but I would like to get into VH's skin on this one if possible.

Meh.

As far as I-IV are concerned, I think my current preference is 73a, then 73b, then 73c... and then 73d as a separate entity. I listened to 73a this morning, just to remind myself :)

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #729 on: July 02, 2021, 06:09:06 AM »
I guess I just don't feel the need to try to get inside a composer's head - even Holmboe, who is my favourite 20th century composer and the one who has influenced me the most in my own amateur attempts at composing, probably to a great degree unconsciously - I'd rather just listen to the music as music and let it take me where it takes me. I don't really relate to Holmboe's philosophical commentary about Kairos - to me it's a fascinating work with a few motifs that recur in various guises throughout; and a well-defined shape, an emotional progression, or rather two emotional progressions going on in parallel: via the first three Sinfonias on the one hand, and via the movements of 73d on the other. Each movement has a distinct character and takes me to a different place.

Not sure if this makes sense, and in any case, YMMV as always!

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #730 on: July 02, 2021, 06:31:09 AM »
I guess I just don't feel the need to try to get inside a composer's head - even Holmboe...I’d rather just listen to the music as music and let it take me where it takes me.

Absolutely! You’ll never get inside a composer’s head, so why bother trying? I’m not saying that biographical information about the composer isn’t beneficial, but, ultimately, one must make up their own mind about a composer’s music.
"When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something." - Dmitri Shostakovich

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #731 on: July 02, 2021, 10:57:43 AM »
Does anyone know if his Symphony No. 8 is in a specific key? Sorry if it's a silly question, just that it intrigues me.

BTW, the solo clarinet at the opening reminds me of the one in Sibelius's Symphony No. 1.
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Online foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #732 on: July 02, 2021, 11:11:37 AM »
I guess I just don't feel the need to try to get inside a composer's head - even Holmboe, who is my favourite 20th century composer and the one who has influenced me the most in my own amateur attempts at composing, probably to a great degree unconsciously - I'd rather just listen to the music as music and let it take me where it takes me. I don't really relate to Holmboe's philosophical commentary about Kairos - to me it's a fascinating work with a few motifs that recur in various guises throughout; and a well-defined shape, an emotional progression, or rather two emotional progressions going on in parallel: via the first three Sinfonias on the one hand, and via the movements of 73d on the other. Each movement has a distinct character and takes me to a different place.

Not sure if this makes sense, and in any case, YMMV as always!

Fair play. Makes a good deal of sense and is a great read at the same time. Thanks!

ultimately, one must make up their own mind about a composer’s music.

So you must!

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #733 on: July 02, 2021, 01:15:38 PM »
Does anyone know if his Symphony No. 8 is in a specific key? Sorry if it's a silly question, just that it intrigues me.

BTW, the solo clarinet at the opening reminds me of the one in Sibelius's Symphony No. 1.

The catalogue doesn’t list keys for ANYTHING, not even really early works.

The scores of some works are visible on issuu, but I doubt there’ll be a discernible key signature...

EDIT: Nope. https://issuu.com/scoresondemand/docs/symphony_no_8_21941.pdc/1?ff
« Last Edit: July 02, 2021, 01:17:13 PM by Madiel »
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Offline amw

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #734 on: July 02, 2021, 05:53:27 PM »
Does anyone know if his Symphony No. 8 is in a specific key? Sorry if it's a silly question, just that it intrigues me.
The tonal centre of the work is E, but not defined by a specific key per se (at various times the mode could be interpreted as E phrygian [e.g. opening theme], octatonic mode II on E [e.g. end of the piece], octatonic mode I on E [e.g. end of the first movement], etc). The second movement is in a fairly well-defined D minor and the third movement's tonal centre is C sharp, mostly based on a nine-note (nonatonic?) scale of the intervallic pattern 1-2-1-1-2-1-1-2-1.

Holmboe's music is obviously not functionally tonal (i.e. based on chords), but rather modal (i.e. based on scales), and works may not retain a particular centre of tonal gravity throughout (e.g. the Sixth Symphony starts on F and ends on D), so assigning a particular key to any of his works is problematic and there's a good reason he did not do so himself.

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #735 on: July 02, 2021, 06:18:34 PM »
The catalogue doesn’t list keys for ANYTHING, not even really early works.

The scores of some works are visible on issuu, but I doubt there’ll be a discernible key signature...

EDIT: Nope. https://issuu.com/scoresondemand/docs/symphony_no_8_21941.pdc/1?ff

The tonal centre of the work is E, but not defined by a specific key per se (at various times the mode could be interpreted as E phrygian [e.g. opening theme], octatonic mode II on E [e.g. end of the piece], octatonic mode I on E [e.g. end of the first movement], etc). The second movement is in a fairly well-defined D minor and the third movement's tonal centre is C sharp, mostly based on a nine-note (nonatonic?) scale of the intervallic pattern 1-2-1-1-2-1-1-2-1.

Holmboe's music is obviously not functionally tonal (i.e. based on chords), but rather modal (i.e. based on scales), and works may not retain a particular centre of tonal gravity throughout (e.g. the Sixth Symphony starts on F and ends on D), so assigning a particular key to any of his works is problematic and there's a good reason he did not do so himself.

Many thanks, guys, very helpful. I barely understand the theory behind the topic, but with what you have posted I don't feel myself as lost as before.
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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #736 on: July 03, 2021, 05:06:24 AM »
The catalogue doesn’t list keys for ANYTHING, not even really early works.

The scores of some works are visible on issuu, but I doubt there’ll be a discernible key signature...

EDIT: Nope. https://issuu.com/scoresondemand/docs/symphony_no_8_21941.pdc/1?ff

Looks like it's E major.

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #737 on: July 03, 2021, 05:21:08 AM »
Looks like it's E major.

Shirley you jest! :)

I think amw nailed it... a Phrygian E minor, at least in the first movement.

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #738 on: July 03, 2021, 12:42:06 PM »
Looks like it's E major.

Have you actually LISTENED to it?
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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #739 on: July 19, 2021, 01:18:15 AM »
I'm in the process of trying to make a proper database out of the mess of material on my blog.

The last full Da Capo album before the upcoming string quartets release was in 2013.  The last BIS recording was in 2009. This is rather disappointing.

There was a real steady stream of activity from both companies from 1992, but that stream has rather dried up.

I'm back to doing this again after a bit of a break. I'm using a website called Airtable which is far and away the best thing I've ever used for trying to construct a database.

On my first attempt I was trying to link just works and albums. But this time I'm revising to link recordings/performances as well, so that it's possible to show when the exact same performance has been released on multiple albums. For example, I can show how the BIS "Cello Concerto" album is a re-release on CD of Holmboe recordings from LPs.

I'm not quite sure yet how I can actually share this information... once I've finished revising the BIS and Da Capo albums I might try to work that out.
I am now working on a discography of the works of Vagn Holmboe. Please visit and also contribute!