Saturday, 28 February 2015


Late in his career, Holmboe wrote 10 preludes for a small ensemble. The only recording thus far calls them "preludes for sinfonietta" although Rapaport's catalogue of Holmboe's works does not use that term.

While each prelude was written for a different group of performers, they undoubtedly form a set. The instruments involved are almost identical - 1 flute, 1 oboe, 1 clarinet, 1 bassoon, 2 French horns, 1 trumpet, 2 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello and 1 double bass. The only variation is the addition of different percussion and piano.

Each prelude also has a title in English (all were dedicated to the English musicologist Robert Layton):
  • To a Pine Tree, op.164 (M.325)
  • To a Dolphin, op.166 (M.327)
  • To a Maple Tree, op.168 (M.329)
  • To a Willow Tree, op.170 (M.331)
  • To a Living Stone, op.172c (M.335)
  • To the Seagulls and Cormorants, op.174 (M.337)
  • To the Pollution of Nature, op.180 (M.344)
  • To the Victoria Embankment, op.184 (M.351)
  • To the Calm Sea, op.187 (M.354)
  • To the Unsettled Weather, op.188 (M.356)
The only recording is by Giordano Bellincampi and the Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen. The preludes were recorded in 1998-9 and released in two separate volumes in 2000-1 (in total the works are fractionally too long to fit on a single disc).

One peculiarity to note with these recordings is the way the numbering is presented. For example, To the Unsettled Weather is listed as "op.188, no.10" giving the impression that there are at least 9 other works in op.188 that aren't included. In fact the "no.10" simply indicates that it is the 10th prelude.

Volume 1 (Da Capo 8.224123) includes the longer works in the series (although none is more than 12 minutes in length). The 10th, 5th, 8th, 3rd and 2nd preludes are presented in that order.

Volume 2 (Da Capo 8.224124) includes, in order, the 6th, 9th, 1st, 7th and 4th preludes. It also includes two of Holmboe's chamber works (also the only recording in both cases). The Sonata for trombone and piano, op.172a (M.333) is in fact the original version of the same music as To a Living Stone, although neither volume makes any mention of that fact. The other work is Music with Horn, op.148 (M.308) which is for violin, French horn and piano.

To the Seagulls and Cormorants from this volume also appears on Da Capo's compilation from its Holmboe recordings, The Key Masterpieces (Da Capo 8.226101-02).

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