Author Topic: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)  (Read 152139 times)

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Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #780 on: August 24, 2021, 04:13:14 AM »
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!

Wow, I missed this post earlier! Thank you for your very cogent observations... Yes, I had forgotten the 3rd movement, so I have to agree that it is the odd-numbered movements that are the most "nocturnal" for me. I guess I don't find it quite as enigmatic as you do - each movement has its own unique character though, and whether they "hang together" as a coherent whole seems to vary from hearing to hearing. I'm about to embark on another listening cycle through all of Holmboe's recorded music (at least, the recordings I have ;)), so I'll likely have a new reaction in a couple months or so.

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #781 on: August 24, 2021, 04:18:14 AM »
Even though I have the Nightingales' SQ #1, I've actually yet to play it so I can't give you my comparisons (yet) of their reading with that of the Kontras, which I adore. My feeling from listening to the Kontras is of a mature composer who has completely assimilated the Eastern European folk influence and is exploring some of the same territory that Bartok explored in his earlier years. I agree that there are many bright lines and harmonies in it, but also a starkness of line in many places, though this could be the Kontras rather than Holmboe!

Looking forward to hearing the Nightingales play this soon... I want to listen to Holmboe in chronological order and this work is actually from his middle period (1946 or so), so it could be a few weeks... there won't be a lot of time for concentrated listening once the semester starts, which is next Monday.

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #782 on: August 24, 2021, 10:49:19 AM »
Wow, I missed this post earlier! Thank you for your very cogent observations... Yes, I had forgotten the 3rd movement, so I have to agree that it is the odd-numbered movements that are the most "nocturnal" for me. I guess I don't find it quite as enigmatic as you do - each movement has its own unique character though, and whether they "hang together" as a coherent whole seems to vary from hearing to hearing. I'm about to embark on another listening cycle through all of Holmboe's recorded music (at least, the recordings I have ;)), so I'll likely have a new reaction in a couple months or so.

I've very much enjoyed hearing #17-20 both individually and as a cycle within a cycle, played in order. I've also valued the comments made by yourself and historically in the thread by Madiel. I'm hoping that as you make your way through the rest of his oeuvre, that you post up some thoughts.

Even though I have the Nightingales' SQ #1, I've actually yet to play it so I can't give you my comparisons (yet) of their reading with that of the Kontras, which I adore. My feeling from listening to the Kontras is of a mature composer who has completely assimilated the Eastern European folk influence and is exploring some of the same territory that Bartok explored in his earlier years. I agree that there are many bright lines and harmonies in it, but also a starkness of line in many places, though this could be the Kontras rather than Holmboe!

Looking forward to hearing the Nightingales play this soon... I want to listen to Holmboe in chronological order and this work is actually from his middle period (1946 or so), so it could be a few weeks... there won't be a lot of time for concentrated listening once the semester starts, which is next Monday.

I am somewhat torn as to whether some of the rawness and astringency that I hear in the Kontra performances are deliberately reflective how #1 is 'meant' to sound. I do also like what feels cleaner and warmer in the Nightingale, though. Thankfully, there is plenty of room for both. I do commend it to you as a decent account, however. Listening to the rest of the cycle with the Kontra is going well!

I hope your return to the new semester isn't too stressful and that VH still finds his place :-). Listening chronologically sounds great. Again, please do share the falling fruit of your foraging!

“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

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Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #783 on: November 11, 2021, 04:41:55 PM »
I've been pretty distracted from the Holmboe SQs because of other music, but I've really enjoyed revisiting #3 over the last couple of days.

Although there aren’t many comments online about Holmboe’s SQ #3, I find myself at odds with those that describe this SQ as bleak or predominantly dark. Pensive and reflective in places, yes. Introspective, even, but not dark. I wonder whether the Kontra’s slower pacing in the opening Lento lends a more mournful tone to the first movement than when compared to the Nightingale?

Comparing the two readily available recordings by the Kontra and Nightingale Quartets, overall the Kontra takes a slower pace with a duration of 22m 25s, and the Nightingale clocks in at 24m and 6 seconds.

1.   Lento (6.25 Nightingale, 7.20 Kontra)
2.   Allegro assai e leggiero (3.46 Nightingale, 3.45 Kontra)
3.   Andante quasi giacona (4.17 Nightingale, 4.34 Kontra)
4.   Allegro decido (5.15 Nightingale,  5.03 Kontra)
5.   Lento (3.02 Nightingale, 3.24 Kontra)

Like most people, the version I’ve owned for years is the Kontra Quartet, and to me, the quartets benefit from what feels like a more raw and less polished recording sound. Having said that, the Nightingale feels brighter, more nimble, and certainly takes a lighter touch to that opening movement. Equally so in the Allegro Assai. 
 
As for the rest, I was particularly interested in the obvious allusions to the Shostakovich SQ #3 in the 4th movement, with a really close quotation of the DSCH SQ#3 opening movement main melody that appearing the VH about 30 seconds in, and again from around 3.20 onwards. More obvious in the Kontra.

The energy and life of the second movement, the return to reflection of the third, and the concluding beauty of V all mark this out as an outstanding quartet in the cycle.
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #784 on: November 29, 2021, 06:10:34 PM »
OK, this is very obscure and speculative, but I'm going to throw it out there.

I've been re-watching Breaking Bad and I'm up to Season 5. In 5/3, there's a brief scene in a store that sells musical instruments. The clerk in the store is named "Vagn." You can see the name written on his badge.

Is this some kind of reference to Vagn Holmboe? Consider: 1) this is a pretty obscure name, and 2) the guy works in a music store. In New Mexico, where there probably aren't a lot of guys with obscure Scandinavian names.
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Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #785 on: November 29, 2021, 10:11:05 PM »
It's a name used at least in N, S and DK, especially among the elder generations. Note that the versions in English are Wayne or Vaughn. It means 'driver' or 'craftsman' and goes back a long time in history. In Swedish it also means 'cart', or nowadays 'car', where the Danish equivalent is 'vogn'. I know one Vagn personally, who's 78. Currently there are about 3989 Vagns in DK, but there were 4154 last year. In Sweden there are apparently only around 90, and in Norway apparently just 26.

Some of the old names can suddenly get popular again, and this might happen to Vagn as well. There are a few examples of it being even a family name.

However I don't know the extent of its popularity say in the US.

Holmboe is quite certainly the most famous Dane with that name. Apparently there are no bands containing the name 'Vagn', for example.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2021, 06:29:17 AM by MusicTurner »

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #786 on: November 30, 2021, 07:41:56 AM »
I didn't know it was the equivalent of Wayne. Maybe I'll start calling him Wayne Holmboe (sounds like a country singer).

However I don't know the extent of its popularity say in the US.

That's why it was so unusual to see it on TV. This name is totally unknown in the US - I've never, ever met a Vagn here.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #787 on: November 30, 2021, 07:43:43 AM »
That's why it was so unusual to see it on TV. This name is totally unknown in the US - I've never, ever met a Vagn here.

And I doubt you ever will. Could it be purely coincidental that a character was named Vagn and not have anything to do with Holmboe? Perhaps Vagn is the name of a someone is a Scandinavian metal band or something?
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Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #788 on: November 30, 2021, 07:47:50 AM »
I didn't know it was the equivalent of Wayne. Maybe I'll start calling him Wayne Holmboe (sounds like a country singer).
(...)

 :laugh:

If it's a case of product placement in the TV series, there are some relatively obscure sweatshirts called Vagn, or Norse Projects Vagn. But they seem quite obscure, and without related badges or merchandize logos etc.. So not likely.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2021, 07:59:17 AM by MusicTurner »

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #789 on: December 01, 2021, 08:45:57 AM »
Is this some kind of reference to Vagn Holmboe? Consider: 1) this is a pretty obscure name, and 2) the guy works in a music store. In New Mexico, where there probably aren't a lot of guys with obscure Scandinavian names.

True, but Holmboe is not exactly a well-known name in the US, so my guess is the inspiration came from elsewhere. Would be interesting to find out though, since as you say, it's a pretty obscure name in this country.

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #790 on: December 07, 2021, 01:26:53 PM »
Spotify tells me that 2021's No.1 artist in the Fox House, is the Kontra Quartet. Apparently Holmboe's SQs are the major reason for that, with SQ#3 as the main culprit, having been played 31 times in total.

Hm.

The only surprise is that it wasn't far more.
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Offline krummholz

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #791 on: December 07, 2021, 05:36:23 PM »
Spotify tells me that 2021's No.1 artist in the Fox House, is the Kontra Quartet. Apparently Holmboe's SQs are the major reason for that, with SQ#3 as the main culprit, having been played 31 times in total.

Hm.

The only surprise is that it wasn't far more.

Hmm... sounds like someone fell in love with that work!

Well, I can understand that!  ;D

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #792 on: December 07, 2021, 10:05:37 PM »
Minor rant time: I'm going to be honest here: I have tried for years to get into Holmboe, but I just can't seem to muster up much enthusiasm for his music and it's a shame, because there are attributes about his style that are intriguing to me like how he started off in a Bartókian, folkish idiom but then ventured off into Neoclassicism and Sibelian organic writing in his later symphonies for example, but, yet, I just can't make a connection. On paper, he seems like a composer I'd love, but this hasn't been the case for me. I'm not throwing in the towel, but I'm certainly not enthusiastic about hearing his music again.
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Offline Madiel

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #793 on: December 08, 2021, 04:22:37 AM »
Minor rant time: I'm going to be honest here: I have tried for years to get into Holmboe, but I just can't seem to muster up much enthusiasm for his music and it's a shame, because there are attributes about his style that are intriguing to me like how he started off in a Bartókian, folkish idiom but then ventured off into Neoclassicism and Sibelian organic writing in his later symphonies for example, but, yet, I just can't make a connection. On paper, he seems like a composer I'd love, but this hasn't been the case for me. I'm not throwing in the towel, but I'm certainly not enthusiastic about hearing his music again.

I thought there were works you rather warmed to, at least some of symphonies 2, 3 and 5??
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #794 on: December 08, 2021, 07:38:21 AM »
I thought there were works you rather warmed to, at least some of symphonies 2, 3 and 5??

Yes, those works are 'okay'. Not really memorable for me in the way my favorites tend to be in their symphonies.
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Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #795 on: December 08, 2021, 07:54:37 AM »
Minor rant time: I'm going to be honest here: I have tried for years to get into Holmboe, but I just can't seem to muster up much enthusiasm for his music and it's a shame, because there are attributes about his style that are intriguing to me like how he started off in a Bartókian, folkish idiom but then ventured off into Neoclassicism and Sibelian organic writing in his later symphonies for example, but, yet, I just can't make a connection. On paper, he seems like a composer I'd love, but this hasn't been the case for me. I'm not throwing in the towel, but I'm certainly not enthusiastic about hearing his music again.

Not every composer can make the same impact on everyone, I guess. Holmboe can be an acquired taste, certainly. I find his symphonies accessible and greatly enjoyable, but would be the first to admit that not all his works are so immediately engaging. You are hardly a novice listener and are skilled in knowing what's what, so my hope is that you'll have a Eureka moment in due time.

His Concerto for Orchestra and Viola and Violin Concertos are a less demanding listen for the unconvinced than say, his SQs and Kairos.
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

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Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #796 on: December 08, 2021, 08:00:02 AM »
... not to mention the charming, rustic Symphony no.1 op.4.

I agree though that some works can be felt as rather uniform, in style and expression. Lots of different stuff to choose from and explore, though.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #797 on: December 08, 2021, 08:01:54 AM »
Not every composer can make the same impact on everyone, I guess. Holmboe can be an acquired taste, certainly. I find his symphonies accessible and greatly enjoyable, but would be the first to admit that not all his works are so immediately engaging. You are hardly a novice listener and are skilled in knowing what's what, so my hope is that you'll have a Eureka moment in due time.

His Concerto for Orchestra and Viola and Violin Concertos are a less demanding listen for the unconvinced than say, his SQs and Kairos.

As I'm getting older, I find that my tastes are becoming more and more refined and there are simply some composers with whom I can honestly say I have no affinity for and it seems that Holmboe may be one of those composers.

But, hey, I love Nielsen and Langgaard, so at least I have some affinity for some Danish composers. ;)
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Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #798 on: December 08, 2021, 08:08:16 AM »
As I'm getting older, I find that my tastes are becoming more and more refined and there are simply some composers with whom I can honestly say I have no affinity for and it seems that Holmboe may be one of those composers.

But, hey, I love Nielsen and Langgaard, so at least I have some affinity for some Danish composers. ;)

If you can stomach some of the complex and squeaky SQs that I occasionally see you post, Holmboe is a walk in the park 😁. You are a welcome and ever present guide for me to the new and difficult!

As you say, maybe he just doesn't float your boat yet. Life is too short for boredom, agony or ambivalence 🙂
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
« Reply #799 on: December 08, 2021, 08:11:27 AM »
If you can stomach some of the complex and squeaky SQs that I occasionally see you post, Holmboe is a walk in the park 😁. You are a welcome and ever present guide for me to the new and difficult!

As you say, maybe he just doesn't float your boat yet. Life is too short for boredom, agony or ambivalence 🙂

I love the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Berg and Webern) whose music isn't 'easy' by any stretch of the imagination, but, yet, I find their music compelling and endlessly fascinating. I guess it just boils down to memorability and whether the music has any impact on me and I can't think one Holmboe work that has made me think "Damn, I've got to hear that again!"
"Works of art create rules; rules do not create works of art." - Claude Debussy