Holmboe Chamber Concertos, Vol. 1
Hard on the heels of BIS’s splendid brass concertos issue (3/97) comes the first volume in DaCapo’s survey of Holmboe’s 13 chamber concertos (the ‘chamber’ designation was later dropped, why it is sustained here is unclear). Those who know the symphonies and quartets will be surprised by this new disc, for if BIS revealed the composer in a new light, this one seems to start from an entirely different vantage point. The clarity of Holmboe’s orchestration and bracing neo-classicism (very unlike that of Stravinsky or Hindemith) create a sound world distinct from the symphony or quartet cycles (he had just finished the Second Symphony when the First Concerto was penned, while the first numbered quartets were still ten years away), though still completely his own.
Despite their closeness in time, these concertos are remarkably diverse. The lyrical, nostalgic opening of No. 1 (1939) gives rise to a 22-minute span that traverses some extremely varied terrain. Exceptionally, Holmboe succeeds in balancing a long slow movement with a single, short, fast one (Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony and Hindemith’s Horn Concerto both require two). The vigorous, folky Second (1940) is an absolute delight, its last movement a heavy-footed Balkan dance, probably Romanian in origin, though akin to Skalkottas’s Greek Dances. The masterly Third (1942, revised 1976; incredibly, this may be its first performance), for clarinet, is more symphonic in design.
These are fine and committed performances, sensitively directed by Hannu Koivula, with uniformly excellent soloists, though pianist Anne Oland is a touch too recessed. A marvellous issue all in all, to which no recommendation of mine can do justice. Buy it.'