Holmboe: Sinfonia I; Sinfonia II; Sinfonia III; Sinfonia IV; Chairos

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Sinfonia I; Sinfonia II; Sinfonia III; Sinfonia IV; Chairos
PERFORMER: Søren Elbaek (violin), Troels Svane (cello); Danish Radio Sinfonietta/Hannu Koivula
CATALOGUE NO: 8.226017-18
The four Sinfonias for strings contain some of the finest music the Danish composer Vagn Holmboe composed in his long and breathtakingly productive career. Powerful, atmospheric, concentrated – each one is a journey in itself. At the same time the quality of the invention is so high that one often feels like going back and replaying some luscious or arresting detail – the flow of ideas is almost too quick to absorb. The Sinfonias are all self-contained works, but Holmboe had the extraordinary idea of combining them, with the first three one-movement Sinfonias as it were ‘embedded’ between the four movements of Sinfonia IV – the result being Chairos, which fills the second CD. The effect is fascinating: one’s whole sense of order and sequence is changed (‘Chairos’ means ‘psychological time’, as opposed to time measured by the clock), and new relationships emerge between motifs. The performances are excellent. It’s good to hear Holmboe’s music performed with such expressive conviction as well as accuracy – often the ideas fly past without leaving much impression, but not here. The recordings are clear enough and well balanced, though there’s not much background atmosphere – a bit studio-ish perhaps. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment, though. In fact these discs would make a more than serviceable introduction for those who don’t know this highly individual composer. Stephen Johnson