Vagn Holmboe: Concertos
17 May 2013
Infodad.comThe Danish composer Vagn Holmboe (1909–1996) wrote an even shorter Concerto for Orchestra
, which lasts just 13 minutes and was never even performed
before being recorded for Dacapo’s new SACD of Holmboe’s music. A very youthful work, dating to 1929, it is heavy on brass and percussion and is not particularly distinctive harmonically or thematically, nor does it point clearly toward Holmboe’s mature style; it is thus more a curiosity than a substantial addition to the repertoire. It does show, however, that even at this age, Holmboe had the ability to produce effective orchestral music that would sound good while giving performers something of a workout. For that reason alone, it is an attractive work to hear.
The much more significant pieces on this SACD have far greater depth and are considerably more mature, although—oddly enough—neither has been recorded before: Concerto No 2 for Violin dates to 1979 and Concerto for Viola to 1992. Holmboe went through a wide variety of influences in his compositional life, from Sibelius and Bartók to Nielsen, Stravinsky and Shostakovich, and was particularly distinguished as a symphonist, producing 13 symphonies between 1927 and 1994. The second of his violin concertos was written more than 40 years after the first, and it is notably free of experimental or modernistic tendencies, being primarily tonal and influenced by folk music, as are many of Holmboe’s works. Erik Heide plays it with relish, and gets fine support from the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Dima Slobodeniouk.
The ensemble does a first-rate job backing up Lars Anders Tomter as well, and Tomter handles the viola concerto with real flair. It is probably inevitable to see any 20th-century concerto for this instrument through the lens of the two preeminent ones—by Bartók and Walton—and while Holmboe’s does not quite measure up to those, it does take advantage of the viola’s warmth and singing abilities, coupled with its virtuosic potential, to showcase the instrument effectively. Holmboe is a composer who is not particularly well-known outside Scandinavia but whose musical acquaintance is well worth making.