Vagn Holmboe: Chamber Music (II)
01 December 2012
David's Review Corner
Born in Denmark in 1909, Vagn Holmboe studied in Copenhagen and Berlin, before settling down in his homeland where he worked as a schoolteacher and music critic. As a composer it was not until the early 1950’s that a series of string quartets gained him an international reputation, his music becoming known as ‘the lighthouse of Danish music’. Though he was to build a large collection of works, it is his chamber music that has placed him among the most important Scandinavian composers in the second half of the last century, the present programme representing his output through much of his life.
It begins in 1956 with the Quartetto Medico for flute, oboe clarinet and piano, in five short movements, the whole work lasts eleven minutes, it’s tuneful content using instruments as solos or in ensemble. Equally pleasurable in its melodic content, Aspects, for a conventional wind quintet, comes from the same year. A gap of thirteen years and we find an extremely demanding Cello Sonata rather in the same mould as Kodaly’s work of that name, though by no means as long. Another four years and the Sextet is scored for the unusual combination of wind and string trios, and indulges in long flowing lines, the opening jaunty and full of good humour. Its spiky finale is surely enough to find the work a place in the popular chamber music repertoire. Finally from 1991 comes one of his last works, Eco.. Admirable in shape and content, the interplay between clarinet, cello and piano is imaginative.
Created in 2002, Denmark’s Ensemble MidtVest has made an international impact working in a number of musical eras, the high quality of their playing evident from these performances. Excellent sound.