Author Topic: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)  (Read 142109 times)

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Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #760 on: July 31, 2021, 11:20:23 PM »
Deleted for the time being, there was one BIG problem...
« Last Edit: July 31, 2021, 11:31:35 PM by Madiel »
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Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #761 on: August 02, 2021, 12:11:47 AM »
I was going to start listening to the SQ cycle at the beginning, but I remember the final few being interesting, so have started there instead!

I confess that I like pieces of music that are titled. I believe strongly that music can and does exist and influence as pure music, and listeners invest their own meaning into what they hear. Doesn't matter what the composer meant, but it still moves people in myriad ways. Having said that, knowing something of what a composer intended, can be fascinating.

Holmboe's SQ #17, 'Mattinata', is like that. Whatever he means by morning, VH is seeking to communicate it, and I think I can catch a glimpse of that.

I love the warm, harmonious announcement of dawn in the opening passage by the combined strings 😁. Three announcements of the start of the new day as the world wakes up!

I do see the quartet's pastoral nature, not in the unmistakable sense of RVW's Lark Ascending, but in Holmboe's own, unique voice. The presence of dawn chorus bird calls throughout the first movement, and the opening and closing of the second, along with hints of awakening insect life in IV and V are great 🙂. I think it is as overt as Holmboe gets. I get a warm, Danish summer morning from #17, and find this to be bright, colourful and enjoyable. As ever, it will give up more with repeat plays. YMMV, as will your interpretation, but this SQ works for me.

The concluding slap of strings at the end of VI makes me smile. Yup - sun is up, birds are out, insects have turned up... tah daaah!
« Last Edit: August 02, 2021, 12:13:37 AM by foxandpeng »

Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #762 on: August 02, 2021, 12:31:33 AM »
I was going to start listening to the SQ cycle at the beginning, but I remember the final few being interesting, so have started there instead!

I confess that I like pieces of music that are titled. I believe strongly that music can and does exist and influence as pure music, and listeners invest their own meaning into what they hear. Doesn't matter what the composer meant, but it still moves people in myriad ways. Having said that, knowing something of what a composer intended, can be fascinating.

Holmboe's SQ #17, 'Mattinata', is like that. Whatever he means by morning, VH is seeking to communicate it, and I think I can catch a glimpse of that.

I love the warm, harmonious announcement of dawn in the opening passage by the combined strings 😁. Three announcements of the start of the new day as the world wakes up!

I do see the quartet's pastoral nature, not in the unmistakable sense of RVW's Lark Ascending, but in Holmboe's own, unique voice. The presence of dawn chorus bird calls throughout the first movement, and the opening and closing of the second, along with hints of awakening insect life in IV and V are great 🙂. I think it is as overt as Holmboe gets. I get a warm, Danish summer morning from #17, and find this to be bright, colourful and enjoyable. As ever, it will give up more with repeat plays. YMMV, as will your interpretation, but this SQ works for me.

The concluding slap of strings at the end of VI makes me smile. Yup - sun is up, birds are out, insects have turned up... tah daaah!

You're making me want to go put it on right now... awkward given I'm partway through a TV episode and just putting the kettle on.

I do remember thinking no.17 was a bit pastoral in nature (it's not the only one).
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Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #763 on: August 02, 2021, 03:26:02 AM »
I was going to start listening to the SQ cycle at the beginning, but I remember the final few being interesting, so have started there instead!

I confess that I like pieces of music that are titled. I believe strongly that music can and does exist and influence as pure music, and listeners invest their own meaning into what they hear. Doesn't matter what the composer meant, but it still moves people in myriad ways. Having said that, knowing something of what a composer intended, can be fascinating.

Holmboe's SQ #17, 'Mattinata', is like that. Whatever he means by morning, VH is seeking to communicate it, and I think I can catch a glimpse of that.

I love the warm, harmonious announcement of dawn in the opening passage by the combined strings 😁. Three announcements of the start of the new day as the world wakes up!

I do see the quartet's pastoral nature, not in the unmistakable sense of RVW's Lark Ascending, but in Holmboe's own, unique voice. The presence of dawn chorus bird calls throughout the first movement, and the opening and closing of the second, along with hints of awakening insect life in IV and V are great 🙂. I think it is as overt as Holmboe gets. I get a warm, Danish summer morning from #17, and find this to be bright, colourful and enjoyable. As ever, it will give up more with repeat plays. YMMV, as will your interpretation, but this SQ works for me.

The concluding slap of strings at the end of VI makes me smile. Yup - sun is up, birds are out, insects have turned up... tah daaah!

Yes, my impressions of SQ #17 are very similar to yours. Bright and pastoral until IV, then things get more active and "busy".

Will be interested to hear your impressions of #18. It evokes very specific images for me, but I don't want to prejudice you so I'll hold off a bit on sharing them.

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #764 on: August 02, 2021, 03:33:54 AM »
You're making me want to go put it on right now... awkward given I'm partway through a TV episode and just putting the kettle on.

I do remember thinking no.17 was a bit pastoral in nature (it's not the only one).

No, indeed! I seem to remember that SQ #2 is indicated as being one example of Holmboe's more pastoral quartets. I've never really seen that, if I am honest - I see the footprints of what I assume is a Romanian folk melody all across the piece, with that beautiful opening melody traced in evolving forms showing slightly different faces to the listener, but I had always seen that more as a dance and a recurrent splash of colour to offset the strains of melancholy and creeping pizzicato in the opening movement, and the equally startlingly haunting melody that is exposed in the second movement, rather than being some kind of bucolic excursion.

I do love SQ #2 - listening to it again now, in fact - and am struck by how effectively Holmboe uses that three-note arch that emerges at the start of the andante second movement and weaves through it to create the somewhat menacing atmosphere that subsequently moves into that lovely violin and viola restatement at the end. How good is that? I know VH isn't often the immediate place one runs to when looking for accessible melody, but that and the fourth movement cello showcase of quiet contemplation is a high point for me.

I think #2 is one of the more accessible of VH's quartets for me. He always seems to be playing with the edges of a tune, which isn't always the case with him. Shamefully, I don't know any Romanian folk tunes, but the way he prods at them here is engaging and seems to reward careful listening, whether it is those mentioned already, or the dissonant, folky meandering of the final movement.

All good, Mr Holmboe, all good.

Yes, my impressions of SQ #17 are very similar to yours. Bright and pastoral until IV, then things get more active and "busy".

Will be interested to hear your impressions of #18. It evokes very specific images for me, but I don't want to prejudice you so I'll hold off a bit on sharing them.

I look forward to poking #18 in that case! I will definitely go there next in my listening - makes sense after #17, but all the more so, now  ;D
« Last Edit: August 02, 2021, 03:36:57 AM by foxandpeng »

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #765 on: August 03, 2021, 04:09:09 AM »
I've found SQ #18 less accessible than #17, with fewer hooks to hold me. It only struck me in the last day or so that these four quartets #17-20 forming a cycle within a cycle, each have 6 movements, numbering 24 in total. It made me wonder to what extent there is an intended hour by hour journey through the day, and although I don't want to read too far, I do want to walk where Holmboe is leading me.

In the same way that #17 begins with a warm announcement of the rising sun, recapitulating that harmonious chord in the same movement to emphasise its presence and warmth, for me #18 has the wingbeats of insect life making their buzzing appearance around midday, alongside the intermittent bird song. Nevertheless, this isn't a carefree sun-drenched atmosphere, as there is enough uneasiness to perhaps literally cloud the afternoon as Holmboe progresses through the third and fourth movements. An afternoon shower illustrated by the plucked 'raindrop' strings and swirling winds foregrounded in the violins and viola?

I need to do some thinking about musical language to help me describe conceptually what I am hearing and subjectively feeling. I know there are 'language games' and terminology in every walk of life that create meaning and allow comprehension within community, whether that is art, business, poetry or music, but hopefully I am not completely inept in pulling my thoughts together.

There is some most satisfying lyrical content in the third and fifth movements, for me. I want to hear more of the melody snatched at by the cello and echoed by the viola (?) midway through the allegro! VH's painting of a calm after the storm using the lower registers of that section is nicely effective, before the day's life and energy reintroduce and reassert themselves in the final movement. Bearing in mind that these four clustered quartets form a unity, it doesn't surprise me that the final combined string statement that punctuates the conclusion of #18, and perhaps the move from daytime hours to dusk, is strongly reminiscent of the way that #17 began with the appearance of the sun.

Again, I've no doubt that repeated listening will deepen my appreciation of this work. In the meantime, I'd love to hear any thoughts others might feel able to share to counter my subjectivity. Any musical analysis from a technical perspective is always fascinating to me...
« Last Edit: August 03, 2021, 04:14:35 AM by foxandpeng »

Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #766 on: August 03, 2021, 04:31:34 AM »
I've found SQ #18 less accessible than #17, with fewer hooks to hold me. It only struck me in the last day or so that these four quartets #17-20 forming a cycle within a cycle, each have 6 movements, numbering 24 in total. It made me wonder to what extent there is an intended hour by hour journey through the day, and although I don't want to read too far, I do want to walk where Holmboe is leading me.

Holmboe was originally working on a composition called "The Hours of the Day". He never finished it in that form, but the movements found their way into quartets 17-20. But apparently the movements are quite scrambled from where they started.

Also, according to the published catalogue of Holmboe's works, which quartet had which subtitle changed - they all had at least one previous title.

But yes, I think the fact that there are 24 movements in total is completely intentional.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2021, 04:36:25 AM by Madiel »
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Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #767 on: August 05, 2021, 02:21:46 AM »
Holmboe was originally working on a composition called "The Hours of the Day". He never finished it in that form, but the movements found their way into quartets 17-20. But apparently the movements are quite scrambled from where they started.

Also, according to the published catalogue of Holmboe's works, which quartet had which subtitle changed - they all had at least one previous title.

But yes, I think the fact that there are 24 movements in total is completely intentional.

I'm still assembling my thoughts on the #19 'Serata', but this is interesting. Holmboe's appending of titles to the Day series colours the meaning that the listener ascribes to the individual pieces, but so far his final choices make some sense to me, at least. Much to chew on.

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #768 on: August 05, 2021, 04:09:32 AM »
Foxandpeng, your reactions to #18 are very similar to mine. "Wingbeats of insect life" indeed, especially in I, with gradually increasing activity in II and III, but also a sense of warmth and depth, as if one can see farther as the day heats up. Then comes IV, which to me evokes nothing so much as a birdfight, with its swooping and launching motions, brief hoverings, and sudden starts of anger! V is cool and meditative, integrating many of the earlier ideas, and VI is my very favourite of Holmboe's rustic dance-finales - bright and bouncy, and so very compact, so much happening in such a short space of time. I agree about the last two chords, they clearly recall or refer to the opening of #17... though as Madiel says, what the original context of all of these movements was is difficult to say as Holmboe did a lot of swapping between quartets. Somehow, though, of the four, the "Giornata" seems the best integrated in mood and character, imho.

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #769 on: August 05, 2021, 06:26:07 AM »
Foxandpeng, your reactions to #18 are very similar to mine. "Wingbeats of insect life" indeed, especially in I, with gradually increasing activity in II and III, but also a sense of warmth and depth, as if one can see farther as the day heats up. Then comes IV, which to me evokes nothing so much as a birdfight, with its swooping and launching motions, brief hoverings, and sudden starts of anger! V is cool and meditative, integrating many of the earlier ideas, and VI is my very favourite of Holmboe's rustic dance-finales - bright and bouncy, and so very compact, so much happening in such a short space of time. I agree about the last two chords, they clearly recall or refer to the opening of #17... though as Madiel says, what the original context of all of these movements was is difficult to say as Holmboe did a lot of swapping between quartets. Somehow, though, of the four, the "Giornata" seems the best integrated in mood and character, imho.

I can see how you would go there! Considering the zoomorphic/theriomorphic use of the various instruments in the first three movements, I can imagine a scene of furious avian engagement from there on :) :). It would certainly be consistent! Equally, rather than the gathering of clouds and rainfall in those swirling strings and pizzicatos, I can see the development of the flocking of birds into those sweeping, tumbling black clouds of swallows that sometimes appear on a summer afternoon. Great picture.

I really like what Holmboe has to say about listening to music in his essay, 'Music, The Inexplicable':

'The emotional experience may be violent or gentle, invigorating or soothing, each according to how the character and progress of the work are felt and comprehended by the listeners. They can be spellbound or dizzied by an orchestra's turbulent orgies of sound, thrilled by a soloist's charming tone or virtuosic brilliance. But above all, music attracts them because it can liberate their pictorial fantasy and set their minds in motion. What images, fantasies and colour projections a particular person creates is an individual matter and may vary considerably from person to person. But for all these people music becomes a source of energy that releases private feelings and dream images, most often with no connection, or only a superficial one, with the music that is heard'.

Wise chap, Mr H. Having said that, I still think we have some close grasp of what he was driving at in this case  :D. Those final two movements are, indeed, excellent. That brief cello melody is all too fleeting!
« Last Edit: August 05, 2021, 06:32:33 AM by foxandpeng »

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #770 on: August 05, 2021, 06:50:53 AM »
indeed, excellent. That brief cello melody is all too fleeting!

Leave 'em wanting more! :)
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Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #771 on: August 05, 2021, 07:39:21 AM »
Leave 'em wanting more! :)

Spoken like a working composer!

 ;D

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #772 on: August 09, 2021, 05:48:50 AM »
String Quartet No.19, 'Serata'

I've been listening to this quartet lots in the last few days. Some of the reviews I have read, and there aren't too many out there really, haven't enjoyed this as much as I have, it seems. I find it extremely worthwhile.

I like the transitional nature of this quartet, moving from the remaining energy of the early evening tracked in the first two movements, into the quieter, more serene,  latter hours, walking though III into V. In particular, I can imagine Holmboe, ubiquitous pipe in hand, contemplatively surveying the evening calm of the fourth and fifth  movements with the clear, starlit Danish skies overhead. The busyness and life of the day has passed, and the long evening has lots of colour and serenity to embrace. I also love the way that the quartet ends with VI, I have to say.  No Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, but something unfinished... I keep waiting for a final conclusion to resolve that section, but it hangs almost with a note missing, waiting for SQ #20 to begin. Is he sitting, pencil and score in hand, reinvigorated throughout the last movement, still with creativity incomplete after he lays down his briar? It certainly appears that way from the almost seamless bridge from the close of #19 into to the opening of the last of his Day series...

Oh, fanciful imagination 🙂🌲☕🕛🌜

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #773 on: August 09, 2021, 11:19:54 AM »
Very nice, foxandpeng! My personal reactions: this one evokes its nominal time of day the least of the four. I also find it musically the most complex and interesting. The weird off-kilter "Intermezzo giocoso" 2nd movement with its fugal entries that get more and more intense and then thin out as if nothing has happened is one example; the twists and turns of line and harmony in the Allegretto 3rd movement are another, and are really unlike anything else Holmboe ever wrote, and yet they're very expressive and seem almost inevitable after the fact. The Adagio 4th movement is simpler yet deeply moving, and the "Intermezzo sereno" 5th is mysterious - perhaps the only movement in the Quartet that, for me, evokes a sense of gloaming. The finale is rife with mostly suppressed drama but fails to really come together for me, at least as played by the Kontras - I would much like to hear this played by a different ensemble, perhaps the Nightingales, and I hope they continue their cycle of the Holmboe Quartets.

Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #774 on: August 09, 2021, 07:17:04 PM »
Funny, because judging from my notes on this thread from some years ago, I really like the finale.

I’ll have to listen again, it’s been a while.
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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #775 on: August 09, 2021, 11:04:40 PM »
Listening to numbers 17-20 now...

I think maybe Holmboe considers the evening to be when people go dancing the tango.  ;D
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Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #776 on: August 11, 2021, 03:36:48 AM »
Very nice, foxandpeng! My personal reactions: this one evokes its nominal time of day the least of the four. I also find it musically the most complex and interesting. The weird off-kilter "Intermezzo giocoso" 2nd movement with its fugal entries that get more and more intense and then thin out as if nothing has happened is one example; the twists and turns of line and harmony in the Allegretto 3rd movement are another, and are really unlike anything else Holmboe ever wrote, and yet they're very expressive and seem almost inevitable after the fact. The Adagio 4th movement is simpler yet deeply moving, and the "Intermezzo sereno" 5th is mysterious - perhaps the only movement in the Quartet that, for me, evokes a sense of gloaming. The finale is rife with mostly suppressed drama but fails to really come together for me, at least as played by the Kontras - I would much like to hear this played by a different ensemble, perhaps the Nightingales, and I hope they continue their cycle of the Holmboe Quartets.

Such a helpful set of reflections, thank you. Your ability to get into the detail of the music and to speak to it effects is great. Oh, and I love the use of 'gloaming' as a descriptor. Quality :). Interesting that it feels to you least reflective of the nominal time of the day, as a whole - I did wonder whether I might feel that more with what I have heard of the Notturno, #20. I will probably need to live with it for a couple of days before making an initial personal assessment, I guess.

Listening to numbers 17-20 now...

I think maybe Holmboe considers the evening to be when people go dancing the tango.  ;D

Haha. You are probably right.

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #777 on: August 12, 2021, 02:40:25 AM »
Interesting that it feels to you least reflective of the nominal time of the day, as a whole - I did wonder whether I might feel that more with what I have heard of the Notturno, #20. I will probably need to live with it for a couple of days before making an initial personal assessment, I guess.

I'll offer that in #20, two of the movements feel nocturnal to me, the others don't. So, #20 feels almost as generic to me as #19 - but just a tad more reflective of its subtitle than #19. It will be interesting to compare our reactions once you've had more time to digest it...

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #778 on: August 16, 2021, 02:58:53 AM »
I'll offer that in #20, two of the movements feel nocturnal to me, the others don't. So, #20 feels almost as generic to me as #19 - but just a tad more reflective of its subtitle than #19. It will be interesting to compare our reactions once you've had more time to digest it...

Holmboe's SQ #20, 'Notturno' is, for me, the least obviously connected to the titular superscription given to it. I enjoy it as a work in its own right, but it is less programmatic in its content, I think - unless Holmboe doesn't sleep very long or very well! It could certainly be indicative of a level of sleeplessness!

The opening movement has a real residual energy that underlies the piece, and only gradually winds to any sort of calm by the closing few moments, before again picking up energy as it moves into II, rather than descending into a more soporific tone. The first indication of connection to the time of day arrives in III. It is less boisterous, less fraught, with violin and viola lines working together to create a more flowing change of pace that could be said to be nighttime. Even that doesn't last, as the hints of peace and anticipated exhalations which hovered with the interlocking strings, is interrupted with the fourth movement. It isn't a soothing or calming progression. Only when Holmboe commences another odd-numbered movement does it feel like a Notturno again. I like the sedative cello line, introducing the quietening viola and violin, which feels like a fleeting atmosphere of calm. I guess there is a brevity to Nordic summer nights that perhaps Holmboe seeks to convey here, unwilling for the night and the gentleness of rest and repose to pervade in any way, because by the time he opens the final movement, energy is building again toward the final darkness before the dawn. The first rays of light don't seem far away, frankly, with the way in which he returns to almost the place where the Mattinata started this mini-cycle. Running the close of #20 back into #17 has a sense of musical coherence, but I don't think I would enjoy much refreshment if this was my Nordic nighttime!

I like the piece, but it is enigmatic to me!
« Last Edit: August 16, 2021, 03:20:06 AM by foxandpeng »

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #779 on: August 22, 2021, 03:41:41 PM »
String Quartet No.1

SQ #1 is another big hit for me. I know all of this is very subjective and personal, but I don't find this quartet gloomy or even particularly contemplative as a whole - there are far too many energetic, pacy sections for that. It doesn't dwell long enough on drawn out, solo instruments and is replete with calls and answers between the players that carry the work forward with vibrancy. I love the ideas and music in #1, the pace shifts and the way that key themes are developed.

If I had to choose between the two available recordings  I probably just prefer the Nightingale Qt interpretation. The slower pace of the first movement and the warmer, less astringent textures of the viola and cello (immediately obvious from the first few bars) are preferable to the more raw tone of the Kontra, I think. The recording sound of the entire work seems to place the listener close up against the instruments rather than feeling I'm sitting a few feet away  or in a larger room, which, if I'm honest, I always prefer. The Nightingale also brought out an almost jaunty interpretation of the pizzicato strings about six minutes in, with a brighter, more forward presence that brings out something new for me. Both showcase the opening viola theme with equal beauty 🙂

The pacing of the Adagio is oddly a touch quicker with the Nightingale than the Kontra - 15 seconds doesn't sound much, bringing it just under 9 minutes of music, but I really noticed it. Possibly after hearing the Kontra's marginally slower speed so often in the last week or so.

The Kontra concludes #1 with an 8:19 final movement against Nightingale's 7:43, which is quite a disparity. Both are lively, but the Nightingale moves at a fair old lick at times! Frantic, much? No criticism of either from me though, and I don't think I gravitate to one more than the other.

There are  lots of bright, melodic lines in #1, which I thoroughly enjoyed once I'd heard the work several times, and I could focus on more easily. It very much seems to me like an intimate, instrumental conversation with repeating but evolving nuances (which I guess is the point) that gets better each time. I also increasingly appreciated the 'false' ending 😀

As ever, please forgive my obvious and amateur response to this, but it is another thumbs up from me
« Last Edit: August 22, 2021, 03:46:42 PM by foxandpeng »