This group of Holmboe's
four sinfonias chronologically follows
Holmboe’s sequence of thirteen chamber
concertos (1939-1956) already recorded
by Da Capo with Koivula and the Danish
These works are all
downright tonal. The first swerves and
sidles between austere and tender. This
is music vivacious but sometimes impassive
or exhausted. Although Sinfonias I-III
carry Italian expression marks there
is a kaleidoscope of mood in each. The
First projects Tippett-like joy
but also carries the ‘scorch’ of Shostakovich.
The Second, 'tranquillo', includes
a lively ferment of string sound from
7.02 onwards while also veering into
etiolated desolation and the echoes
of a Bachian chorale. Holmboe's palette
extends also to shuddering excitement
(13.21) as well as evincing the ability
to conjure a glow sound constantly in
cycle between cool and warm. The Third
includes music that is dartingly energetic.
It is momentarily like Tapiola
and then returns to a slightly chilled
redolence of Wirén's Serenade.
The Fourth is
in four movements and is the only work
to deploy solo lines (cello and violin).
The Preludio is hesitant, wispy,
tense, almost like Webern but never
so extreme and Holmboe's materials are
always tonal. Both Interludios (I
and II) deploy mysterious scamperings
and a col legno clatter with
solo instruments reaching out to the
The four Sinfonias
can be heard either as independent works
or as part of a larger work in which
the movements arranged in a different
order. That larger work is called Chairos.
Da Capo have saved us the intricacy
of reprogramming the CD player by including
a bonus CD which has the same tracks
as CD1 but sequenced in the order prescribed
to formulate the Chairos work.
The Chairos sequence is: Preludio;
Interludio 1; Sinfonia 2;
Interludio 2; Sinfonia 3;
Holmboe wrote that
Chairos means 'time in the psychological
sense - the passage of time as we sense
it as opposed to Chronos' the
mechanical passage of seconds and minutes
and hours. However before we become
drawn into that vortex we need to know
that the composer has commented that
such exegesis 'can only have a negative
interest for anyone who wishes to listen
to the music as such.'
These are spirited
readings, full of unruly life but in
this case without the last word in luxury
string tone - quite possibly none was
contemplated by the composer. There
are a few moments of strain and thinness
but in general the music-making is highly
sympathetic as you would expect from
a conductor and orchestra who have spent
years in the service of this enriching
Sinfonia I - Pro Musica/Lamberto Gardelli
7 March 1958
Sinfonia II; III; IV - Aarhus City Orchestra/Per
Dreier, 20 Nov 1958, 2 Jan 1962, 27
Without the gigantic
melodic release of the cornerstone works
for string orchestra by Tippett, Elgar
and Bliss these four Sinfonias recall
the best in 20th century string writing.
At various times they may remind you
of Howells' Concerto for Strings,
the Bliss, Ginastera and Tippett.
This disc is uniform
with Da Capo's Chamber Concerto four
volumes and the two CDs of the Preludes.
The Sinfonias are significant and, more
to the point, stimulating and loveable.
In every way a compelling successor
to the other CDs in the Da Capo series.