Holmboe Preludes for Sinfonietta v2 Dacapo 8.224124

Déjà Review: this review was first published in February 2002 and the recording is still available.

Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
Preludes for Sinfonietta, Vol 2
To the Seagulls and the Cormorants, Op 174, No 6 (1987)
To the Calm Sea, Op 187, No 9 (1991)
To a Pine Tree, Op 164, No 1 (1986)
To the Pollution of Nature, Op 180, No 7 (1989)
To a Willow Tree, Op 170, No 4 (1987)
Sonata for Trombone and Piano, Op 172a (1987)
Music with Horn, Op 148 (1981)
Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen/Giordano Bellincampi
rec. 1999, Lyngby Kapel, Denmark
Dacapo 8.224124 [51]

Here, at long last, is Volume 2 of these very rewarding works. I reviewed Volume 1 (Dacapo 8.224123) in February 2001 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.

The Volume 1 issue 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 plays these pieces with aplomb, as in the Volume 1 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 a 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 times over.

We are extremely lucky in this day and age of the record companies feeling the pinch that repertoire of this kind gets recorded. 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.

John Phillips

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