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From the Merry Life of a Spy
Music for Brass Quintet

Vagn HOLMBOE (1909-1996) Quintet No. 1 Op. 79 (1961-2) [12.41]; Quintet No. 2 Op. 136 (1978) [12.22]
Ib NORHOLM (b.1931) From the Merry Life of a Spy Op. 156 (1999) [8.43]
Anders NORDENTOFT (b.1957) Three Studies (1984) [12.01]
Axel JORGENSEN (1881-1947) Quintet (1942) [16.17]
Mogens ANDERSEN (b.1945) Three Norwegian Dances (1990) [10.14]
Art of Brass Copenhagen
rec. 16-22 June 2001, Lyngby Parkkapel
DACAPO 8.226001 [72.18]


Dacapo again enters territory cherished by Crystal Records and does so with substance and joy.

The Holmboe is querulous, sardonic and heroic but never loquacious. He is like a Nordic Janáček writing with some highly complex music in the finale which becomes rather suggestive of Malcolm Arnold. The 1978 quintet is in five movements and is yet more subtle - elusive in expressive language especially in its second and fourth movements. The trouble-stilling beauty of the Poco adagio is one of the disc's highlights. The chubby bubbling chatter of the allegro vivace reminded me of Tippett's Sonata for Four Horns. Holmboe adds salt to his melodic inheritance locked into folk roots.

Norholm is more caustic in his jokily titled three movement quintet. This rolls and rocks abrasively in dissonant gesture as well as in serenade. I would liken the style to Malcolm Arnold's Symphony for Brass. The ‘Spy’ background seems almost irrelevant to the music though there is perhaps a sinister, hunted or surreptitious tone to the music. The Nordentoft is yet more gaunt - full of explosives and interjections. Its most accessible movement is the last of the three: Tiny Fanfares. We then step back two generations to Jorgensen (for many years a violist with the Royal Danish Orchestra) and his four movement wartime quintet. This has a Nielsen-like lyricism though with a yet lighter touch. This is sophisticated light music for a seaside concert. It has a knockabout ebullience - an Edwardian weekend levity. Andersen marks out his folk territory with clapping and stamping amid the busy rolling and rollicking writing for brass. Again Malcolm Arnold would be a ready reference. The second movement has the regretful atmosphere of the tin mines movement of Arnold’s Cornish Dances. No one can tell me that the pecking impacts at the start of the last movement are not intended to refer affectionately to Nielsen's Sinfonia Espansiva.

A varied package then. It is predominantly approachable without blandness but with the avant-garde style strong in the Nordentoft and present, though less so, in the Norholm.

This is a stunning recording capturing the high trumpet transients as well as the gruff edge of the tuba and trombone. Cracking stuff!

Rob Barnett


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