- Chamber Symphony No. 3 ("Frise", "Frieze"), Op. 103a
- Chamber Symphony No. 2 ("Elegy"), Op. 100
- Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 53
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Between 1951 and 1970, Danish composer Vagn Holmboe wrote three chamber symphonies, but these works had not been available in any recorded format until John Storgårds and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra released these world-premiere recordings in 2011. Listeners who are familiar with Holmboe's mid-20th century output may recognize a consistent method in these pieces, for all three are based on procedures of motivic and thematic metamorphosis that the composer adapted from the symphonies of Jean Sibelius, and also used successfully in his large-scale works of the time. This practice yielded music of a highly organic and unified nature that is easy to follow, and his development of material is flexible and fluid. Storgårds and his musicians give these chamber symphonies a full and expansive treatment, and because the orchestra sounds quite large, one might not guess that these are chamber symphonies. The performances have been recorded in Digital eXtreme Definition (DXD) and issued as a hybrid SACD, so the separation of parts and clarity of details are everything an audiophile looks for, and the orchestra sounds quite spacious and resonant in the vibrant acoustics.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Vagn Holmboe, not exactly a household name, is often considered to be the most important Danish symphony composer since Carl Nielsen. His music is characteristically tonal and quite accessible. This recording of his Chamber Symphonies #1-4 offers a wonderful chance to get to know his symphonic output. Holmboe’s works written largely between 1950 –1970 (of which these are prime examples) show a use of small motives and thematic fragments as the basis for larger scale construction (similar to what Sibelius did). It is said that his earlier works show the influence of composers such as Bartók and a little bit of Carl Nielsen and Dmitri Shostakovich. I think listening carefully to these very nice and dramatic works will reveal some of this but, in many ways, Holmboe’s music is its own style and has a unique flavor. Interestingly, some of Holmboe’s students are fairly well known in the contemporary European music scene, including the works of Per Norgard and Bent Sorensen. Each of these works is a very fine piece deserving to be heard more often. The Chamber Symphony #1, dating from 1951, is the most “classical” sounding with a most attractive and tension filled Adagio that does bear more than a passing resemblance to Bartok and a driving, propulsive Allegro assai. The Chamber Symphony #2 has a very different feel to it. Subtitled “Elegy”, Holmboe wrote this during a period of self-doubt (1968), during which he was at odds with some of his most talented young pupils (including Norgard and Ib Norholm). The actual controversies as well as the tone in the music is a near “battle” between some of the traditional sounds for which Holmboe became known and the modernism espoused by the younger generation. The Chamber Symphony #3 is another captivating and very unique work with an interesting history. Written as a work to celebrate the installation of a sculpture by the artist, and friend of Holmboe’s, Arne Hansen, the artist’s work was actually modeled after the titles and feel of the individual movements of the musical work. This unique collaboration also resulted in Holmboe later writing a choral version of the piece and, later, the two men collaborated on a multi-media work, Music for Birds and Frogs. This piece, of the three has the most unusual structure (six movements) and a sense of thematic writing to it that exudes the visual. This recording by the amazing Laplands Chamber Orchestra under the most talented John Storgards is brilliant, lively and spacious (in the SACD format, the acoustics and presence are terrific!) I think this is an important release that most people would truly enjoy. Highly recommended!