Vagn Holmboe: Works for violin and piano
01 September 2010
Holmboe's reputation rests on his masterly series of symphonies, string quartets and concertos. Few realise that he was a practical musician as well, the violin being his instrument, and as well as the present collection he also composed solo and double concertos for it plus a variety of duos and chamber pieces.
The three sonatas encapsulate the development through his career of one of his key influences: non-Nordic, particularly Balkan folk musics. The First Sonata (1935), not dignified with an opus number, shows this in its most immediate form, the rhythms vibrant and barely recognisable as northern European. By the Second of just four years later, the folk influence had been sublimated into Holmboe's personal style and this threespan work is strongly pithy and concise. The Third followed in 1965 and is in a different league altogether. Its four movements mimic the standard layout of the classical sonata but relate more like the obverse and reverse of the same coin.
Haiduc dates from 1993 and was one of the ailing composer's final works. It is a gem, as well, a final revisiting of that formative influence which is then sublimated into something unique. With top-notch sound, this is a release the excellence of which puts considerations of cost into perspective: recording Holmboe's violin-and-piano music, several thousand euros; purchasing the disc, .15.99; hearing the Third Sonata's opening Moderato dissolve into serenity, priceless.