Holmboe: String Quartet No. 10; String Quartet No. 11; String Quartet No. 12

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LABELS: 8.224101
WORKS: String Quartet No. 10; String Quartet No. 11; String Quartet No. 12
PERFORMER: Kontra Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224101
This is the fourth volume in the Kontra Quartet’s survey of the Holmboe quartets, arguably the finest series after Shostakovich – and certainly the most finely wrought. An earlier set by the Copenhagen Quartet reached the Tenth (and then went on to Nos 15 and 16), while No. 11 was recorded by the Skandinaviska Quartet (EMI). The three recorded here come from 1969-73, the period of the Ninth and Tenth symphonies, and the last of his Symphonic Metamorphoses, the Tempo variabile. The Tenth is a powerfully concentrated two-movement structure in which the musical argument unfolds with the rigorous logic that determines all his creative thinking. Once a musical idea takes wing, Holmboe allows it to take its own course, the thematic matter defining its own direction and purpose. The Eleventh, the only one of his 20 quartets to bear a subtitle (Quartetto rustico), is both shorter and more relaxed. The Kontra plays with conviction throughout and is generally scrupulous in observing the dynamic markings. The Twelfth is a five-movement piece with a particularly eloquent slow movement. It is music worth taking trouble with: those who derive satisfaction from, say, the quartets of Robert Simpson will find a lot to satisfy them here. The Danish Radio recording, made in a slightly dry studio, is very satisfactory but there is a tendency for tone to harden above the stave in fortissimo passages. Robert Layton