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Dip Your Ears, No. 161 (World Premiere Holmboe Goodness)

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Vagn Holmboe, Concertos,
D.Slobodeniouk / Norköpping SO / E.Heide, L.A.Tomter

World Premiere Bookends

The timpanist in Vagn Holmboe's 1992 (!) Viola Concerto op.189 whacks away at the opening of propulsive Allegro moderato first movement as if to give, double handedly, the finale of Nielsen's "Inextinguishable" Symphony a run for its money. The recurring phrase alternates with wistfully-lyrical solo passages before soloist (Lars Anders Tomter) and the Norköpping Symphony Orchestra meld into a highly condensed and lean work of some 20 minutes that has every chance to be included in the sparsely populated pantheon of great Viola Concertos. If you hear infusions of Jewish (or Central European folksy), rather than Nordic themes, it probably has to do with Holmboe having written the work for the Israeli Violist Rivka Golani. It's shocking that this should be the premiere recording of the work.

The 1929 Concerto for Orchestra can well hold its own against the famous(ish) exponents of the form, Bartók, Lutosławski, Ginastera, and Hindemith and—except for the latter which may have served as inspiration to Holmboe—precedes all of them. Unlike them, it's rather less a showcase for individual instruments in layered form but a cohesive, dark orchestral work of neo-classicism with larger and smaller hints from Nielsen to dramatic Mozart. Again it's astounding that the Norköpping performance under Dima Slobodeniouk should not only be the first recording but also the premiere performance.

The 1979 Violin Concerto op.139 is a stellar firecracker, energetic, and prompting thoughts of Mendelssohn here, Enescu there, juggling its Balkan themes in lighthearted manner all the way to its virtuosic end which Erik Heide does proud. It confirms this disc as one of the most accessible and rewarding when it comes to Holmboe. The persuasiveness of the works reflects on the ability, dynamism, and verve of the performers.