Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Symphonies

Vagn Holmboe wrote 13 numbered symphonies:
  • Symphony No.1 for chamber orchestra, op.4 (M.85)
  • Symphony No.2, op.15 (M.107)
  • Symphony No.3 'Sinfonia Rustica', op.25 (M.126)
  • Symphony No.4 'Sinfonia Sacra', op.29 (M.132)
  • Symphony No.5, op.35 (M.145)
  • Symphony No.6, op.43 (M.155)
  • Symphony No.7, op.50 (M.167)
  • Symphony No.8 'Sinfonia Boreale', op.56 (M.175)
  • Symphony No.9, op.95 (M.235)
  • Symphony No.10, op.105 (M.250)
  • Symphony No.11, op.144 (M.304)
  • Symphony No.12, op.175 (M.338)
  • Symphony No.13, op.192 (M.362)
Despite more than one commentator praising Holmboe as one of the finest symphonists of the 20th century, there is little competition between recordings. The only complete set, and the only recording for 10 of the 13 symphonies, is the set made by Owain Arwel Hughes and the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, recorded between 1992 and 1996 for the BIS label.

The set also includes the only recording of the Sinfonia in Memoriam, op.65 (M.185).

The catalogue number for the complete set is BIS CD 843/846. The individual discs are still generally available as follows:
  • Symphonies 4 and 5 (BIS CD 572)
  • Symphonies 6 and 7 (BIS CD 573)
  • Symphonies 1, 3 and 10 (BIS CD 605)
  • Symphonies 8 and 9 (BIS CD 618)
  • Symphony No.2 and Sinfonia in Memoriam (BIS CD 695)
  • Symphonies 11, 12 and 13 (BIS CD 728)

The only symphonies for which alternative versions have been recorded are numbers 7, 8 and 10.

Symphony No.7 was recorded by John Frandsen and the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. This recording was released in the Dansk Musik Antologi (Danish Music Anthology) LP series, as Deutsche Grammophon DMA 018, around 1971. The record also includes compositions by Per Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.

For Symphony No.8 there are two alternative recordings.The first performance is by Jerzy Semkow and the Royal Danish Orchestra, in around 1967/8. There are at least 2 different editions of this recording on LP. Perhaps the most readily available is on the Turnabout label (TV 34168S) where it appears with Per Nørgård's Constellations. There is also an EMI edition (2903161) which just has the symphony. There is also reportedly a Fona edition (M7 for mono, S7 for stereo) but I have not confirmed its existence.

The second alternative recording of Symphony No.8 is performed by Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra. This was released in 2010, although it possibly dates back to a live performance in 2002. As far as I'm aware there is no CD version, but this is available on a number of download and streaming services.

Finally, Symphony No.10 was recorded in 1975 by Sixten Ehrling and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. This was released on a Caprice LP, CAP 1116, and appears with Sinfonia Breve by Gösta Nystroem.

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