HOLMBOE: Requiem for Nietzsche
27 October 2015
Henry FogelThe more music by the Danish composer Vagn Holmboe that I hear, the more I recognize his importance
in the second half of the 20th century, not only in Scandinavia but in broader scope of the music world. Holmboe (1909–1996) wrote many important orchestral works
, but one of his most striking pieces is this Requiem for Nietzsche. His general compositional style was conservative and relatively tonal, but he employed some aleatoric and tone-cluster elements in this piece. The work sets not writings of Nietzsche, but sonnets about Nietzsche by Thorkild Bjørnvig, a major Danish poet and friend of the composer. As Paul Rapoport noted in his enthusiastic review in Fanfare 26:2 (he later included the recording in his Want List for 2003), the music surprises with its experimental choral techniques and orchestral textures. The overall impact of the score is extremely moving and powerful
. It seems at times to try to musically come to grips with Nietzsche the artist, the philosopher, and ultimately the madman. It is, in fact, Nietzsche’s madness that seems to dominate much of the piece, although the conclusion is extraordinarily beautiful. In fact, this is a musical work that seems to attempt to encompass the entire range of Nietzsche’s imagination, and manages to coalesce it into an artistic vision that is compelling and convincing. The performance is all one could hope for
. Solo and choral singing is first rate, the orchestra plays with impassioned commitment and technical excellence, and Schønwandt’s conducting is that of a true believer. This is a very important piece of 20th-century choral literature, and thus a rational candidate for the Classical Hall of Fame.