Here, at long last, is Volume 2 of these very rewarding
works. Volume 1 was reviewed some time ago, and at the time I looked
forward to the rest of these very interesting works by Denmark’s recently
deceased (1996) well known and very well respected composer.
As one of the last major series of works completed
by Holmboe these ten preludes for Sinfonietta were completed only in
1991 and were written for Robert Layton, the well known Scandinavian
music specialist musicologist.
As with the previous issue Dacapo 8.224134, this had
five Preludes taking up the same total time as the present disc. The
current disc has the remaining five Preludes, and because the playing
time is much less, Dacapo has added two chamber works to make up the
time. The two chamber works are no more difficult to appreciate than
the pieces for Sinfonietta and they also can be strongly recommended.
As before, an introductory statement about the works has been printed
on the back of the cover:
"The spirit of folk culture played an important
role in the music of the Danish composer Vagn Holmboe (1909-96). As
was the case with Bela Bartók, folklore studies contributed significantly
to his compositional process. Holmboe was the most influential Danish
composer of the generation after Carl Nielsen and his large output includes
13 symphonies, chamber concertos, and many fine string quartets."
As before, the inventiveness of the composer has to
be heard to be believed! These are all wonderful pieces and are supposed
to reflect their respective titles. I find difficulty in understanding
where these subjects appear in the works, but I find this of little
or no consequence. Each of the short pieces is interesting in its own
right as pure music, and the individual work titles, I find, add nothing
to the experience. They are all firmly tonal in nature and although
melodically they need a bit of familiarisation, they are by no means
difficult, and any fan of Nielsen should find no difficulty in the appreciation
of these works.
The Athelas Sinfonietta, Copenhagen play these pieces
with aplomb, as in the previous issue, and Dacapo has provided us with
a recording which is once again clear and truthful. Add to this a set
of notes which describe each work in detail, together with comprehensive
potted history of Vagn Holmboe and his life, this disc deserves a wide
circulation. Anyone who loves the symphonies will find these works as
satisfying as the larger pieces. They are easy to listen to, once the
Holmboe idiom has been assimilated, and will repay the listener ten
We are extremely lucky in this day and age of the record
companies feeling the pinch. One of the results is that repertoire of
this kind gets recorded whereas a few years ago we would be extremely
unlikely to ever be able to hear these works, let alone own them to
listen to and enjoy many times over.