Sunday, 1 March 2015

Concertos, part 1: the numbered concerto series

The names of the concertos

Keeping track of Holmboe's large output of concertos and concertante works is a little challenging, because his approach to naming works varied in different phases of his career.

Between 1939 and 1956, Holmboe did not label his concertos by the conventional method of referring to the solo instrument. Instead, he labelled them by number. There is an added complication in that originally these were "Chamber Concertos", but at some point Holmboe dropped the "Chamber" term, possibly because in some later works the size of the orchestra is not small.

The 13 numbered concertos are as follows:
  • Concerto No.1 for piano, op.17 (M.113)
  • Concerto No.2 for flute and violin, op.20 (M.120)
  • Concerto No.3 for clarinet, op.21 (M.121)
  • Concerto No.4 for piano trio, op.30 (M.139)
  • Concerto No.5 for viola, op.31 (M.141)
  • Concerto No.6 for violin, op.33 (M.143)
  • Concerto No.7 for oboe, op.37 (M.147)
  • Concerto No.8 'Sinfonia Concertante' for orchestra, op.38 (M.148)
  • Concerto No.9 for violin and viola, op.39 (M.149)
  • Concerto No.10 'Træ-Messing-Tarm' (Wood-Brass-Gut) for orchestra, op.40 (M.150)
  • Concerto No.11 for trumpet, op.44 (M.157)
  • Concerto No.12 for trombone, op.52 (M.169)
  • Concerto No.13 for oboe and viola, op.67 (M.187)
Some of the works, at least, are also likely to be referred to in the more conventional way. A mention of Holmboe's piano, clarinet, oboe, trumpet or trombone concerto means the work from this series (1, 3, 7, 11 and 12 respectively).

Complications arise for the viola, as some sources such as Rapaport's catalogue seek to label op.31 as "Viola Concerto No.1", making the much later Viola Concerto which is not part of this series into "No.2". For the violin it is even worse, as there are two other violin concertos written before and after this series. In Rapaport's catalogue, op.33 becomes the 2nd violin concerto, making the usual (much later) 2nd violin concerto into "No.3".

Recordings of the complete series

The complete series of 13 concertos have been recorded by Hannu Koivula and a group variously called the Danish Radio Concert Orchestra (volumes 1 & 2), the Danish Radio Sinfonietta (volumes 3 & 4) and the Danish National Chamber Orchestra (the Da Capo website). The four volumes have the concertos in order, with concertos 1-3 (Da Capo 8.224038), 4-6 (Da Capo 8.224063), 7-9 (Da Capo 8.224068) and 10-13 (Da Capo 8.224087).

The team of soloists are: Anne Øland (piano), Eva Østergaard (flute), Mikkel Futtrup (violin), Niels Thomsen (clarinet), Niels Ullner (cello), Tim Frederiksen (viola), Max Artved (oboe), Ole Edvard Antonsen (trumpet) and Jacques Mauger (trombone).

These are the only recordings of Concertos 2, 4, 5, 6 and 13.The same recording of Concerto No.2 is also available on Da Capo's Holmboe compilation The Key Masterpieces (Da Capo 8.226101-02).


Recordings of the trumpet and trombone concertos

Concertos 11 and 12 (for trumpet and trombone) are the most frequently recorded works in the series. Besides the complete set above, there are 3 more recordings of the trumpet concerto and 2 more recordings of the trombone concerto.

Both works appear together on a disc of brass concertos (BIS CD 802). The soloists are Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet) and Christian Lindberg (trombone) with Owain Arwel Hughes conducting the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra. Also on the disc are the only recordings of two of Holmboe's other concertos, the Tuba Concerto and Intermezzo Concertante.

The same performance of the trombone concerto appears on a disc sometimes called Nordic Trombone Concertos and also called Arabenne and other Trombone Concertos from the North (BIS CD 888).

The other available performance of the trombone concerto features Jesper Juul, with Henrik Vagn Christensen conducting the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. The disc is called Romantic Trombone Concertos (Da Capo 6.220526).

For the trumpet concerto, there are two older performances. One recorded around 1956 features Robert Nagel, with Carlos Surinach conducting the MGM Chamber Orchestra. This originally appeared on an LP (MGM E 3557), but more recently has been made available for download or streaming through Naxos Classical Archives (9.80083). In both cases it is paired with the Etruscan Concerto by Peggy Glanville-Hicks (who apparently was responsible for introducing Holmboe to American audiences). Ironically, the USA and Glanville-Hicks' native Australia are, along with Singapore, the countries where the Naxos product is not available for copyright reasons.

The last available performance of the trumpet concerto has Ketil Christensen as the soloist, with Michael Schønwandt conducting the Collegium Musicum Copenhagen. The original release was called Danish Trumpet Concertos (Rondo RLP 8312) with works by Norby and Riisager. The CD re-release is called Danish Trumpet Concertos, volume 5 (Rondo Grammofon RCD 8351) and adds other brass works by Nielsen, Sehested and Andresen.


Recordings of other works in the series

The only alternative recordings of Concertos 1, 3 and 7 (for piano, clarinet and oboe) can be found on BIS CD 1176. Owain Arwel Hughes conducts the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra, and the soloists are Noriko Ogawa (piano), Martin Fröst (clarinet) and Gordon Hunt (oboe). The disc also includes the only recording of the choral work Beatus Parvo, op.117 (M.270).

The same recording of the clarinet concerto has been included more recently in a Martin Fröst disc of Nordic Concertos (BIS CD 2123).

Owain Arwel Hughes and the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra are also responsible for the only alternative recordings of the two works without soloist, Concertos 8 and 10. They can be found on BIS CD 917, together with the only recordings of the Concerto giocondo e severo, op.132 (M.288) and the suite from the ballet The Ill-Tempered Turk, op.32b (M.242).

The only alternative recording of Concerto No.9 dates from 1969. The soloists are Kai Laursen (violin) and Erik Spillemose (viola), with Carl von Garaguly conducting the Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra. I'm unsure whether this recording was originally released on LP, but these days it is available on a Danacord double-CD/download called Danish Violin Concertos, volume 5 (DACOCD  469-470). In some places the exact same collection is labelled as Danish Violin Concertos, volumes 9 & 10, reflecting a different release where each disc in the 10-disc Kai Laursen series was treated as a separate volume (even though sold in pairs). Other composers included on this 2-disc set are Eyvin Andersen, Niels Viggo Bentzon, Jens Laursen Emborg and Leif Thybo.

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