Vagn HOLMBOE (1909-1996)
Kairos (Sinfonias I–IV) op. 73 (1957-59) [59:38]
Sinfonia IV, Op.73d (1959) [14:45]
Camerata Wales/Owain Arwel Hughes
rec. December 2005, Parish Church, St Jude on the Hill, London. DDD
BIS-CD-1596 [75:20]
The four sinfonias exist as separate entities as well as the elements of a larger work Kairos or Chairos. The four movements of Sinfonia IV are heard twice here: once as movements of Kairos and once as a complete sequence across tracks 8-11. As part of Kairos they appear as movements I, III, V, VII between which come the complete Sinfonias I, II and III.
The progress and effect of almost an hour of highly skilled string music has a skeletal sweetness, tingling pregnant tension and of striding victories hard-won. The ossiary brings forth honey. Much of the music is grave and sometimes caustic. There is an airborne mercurial tripping lightness as well: delight and melting ecstasy set free from grim inscapes. The contrast between these elements is exemplified by the first two movements of Kairos. While asserting its own identity this music can be bracketed with some of the great string works of the last century alongside the Alwyn Sinfonietta, the Elgar Introduction and Allegro, the Wirén Serenade, the Maw Life Studies, the Howells Concerto for Strings, the Bliss Music for Strings, the Schmitt Janiana, Strauss Metamorphosen, the Tippett Concerto and Corelli Fantasia and the Sinfoniettas by Bacri, Herrmann and Waxman.
The well conceived and executed liner notes by Knud Ketting provide an accessible key to the music.
Contrast the earlier recording of the sinfonias by Koivula on Dacapo which is laid out slightly differently and across 2 discs. The Dacapo is admirable but the Bis sound lends the strings a shade more richness.
This disc forms an indispensable adjunct to the unique Bis-Arwel Hughes collection of the Holmboe symphonies.
I hope I have given you some impression no matter how hamfisted of the feel of this music: spectral, visionary, grave, delightful.

Rob Barnett
Spectral, visionary, grave, delightful ... see Full Review