Review of Vagn Holmboe Sonatas & Intermezzi, by Maria Maria Kämmerling, Paula Records, 1983
In his excellent book “Nordic Art Music” Frederick Key Smith wrote: “Next to Carl Nielsen, Vagn Holmboe (1909-96) is arguably the most beloved and successful Danish composer to have lived during the twentieth century. As a music teacher, he had a profound impact on such important fìgures as Per Norgàrd and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, while also achieving notoriety as a music critic and essayist. His activities as a composer garnered him many awards, and combined with his generous nature and keen intellect, international fame and respect. Though it would be incorrect to label Holmboe a national Romantic, he is more closely in line with Nielsen and Sibelius as a composer than he is with many of his contemporaries. He made limited use of modern styles, such as serialism, and even neo-Classical elements, with the exception of contrapuntal techniques, are not particularly common in his music. Of far greater importance was his interest in the musical philosophics of Béla Bartòk, especially with regard to the distinction between folk music and art music.
Holmboe’s output is quite extensive, and consists of significant contributions to virtually every type of art music; in addition, his symphonies, string quartets, and concerti are considered outstanding. Regardless of the specifìc genre considered, however, Holmboe stands at the summit of Modern Nordic art music, and as Yoell writes, “Like the man himself, Vagn Holmboe’s music offers the most persuasive illustration of complete artistic integrity.”” (pag. 102)
The curious thing about this monography recording is that Vagn Holmboe began his interest about the possibilities offered by the guitar towards the age of 70, attracted by the intimate and delicate atmosphere that this instrument could give him he wrote the Sonata nr 1, the Sonata nr 2 and the Five Intermezzi. Although he was not a guitarist it’s evident, listening to this CD, the remarkable skill and commitment dedicated by the Danish composer to the guitar, and his desire to emerge from a folkloristic horizon to fit into the European compositional tradition. The result is a cd of suspended music, characterized by a consistent and elaborate internal development, elegant expressed by the virtuosity and intelligence of Maria Kämmerling.