Various Artists

Vagn Holmboe

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Despite his justifiable reputation to be the most significant Danish composer between Nielsen (his teacher) and Norgard (his pupil), Vagn Holmboe is not exactly a household name outside his home country, even in those households where atonality is the primary language. While the selections here range from the interesting to the fascinating to the challenging, it could be questioned whether the repertoire on this two-disc set actually represents the composer's key masterpieces, as the album's title suggests. The program is filled with characteristic music of the composer, from his flamboyantly virtuosic Chamber Concerto No. 2 to his resolutely hard-edged String Quartet No. 4 to his massively cathartic Requiem for Nietzsche. Each work is brilliantly played -- cellist Morten Zeuthen's exquisite rendering of the Sonata for solo cello, for example, is deeply felt -- Hannu Koivula and the Danish Radio Sinfonietta's amazingly moving reading of Sinfonia I. The repertoire is marvelous and the performances are first-class, but these pieces may or may not be the composer's key masterworks. To answer the question, interested listeners should acquaint themselves with this set and then with a broader selection of Holmboe's music. Though the recordings come from a variety of times and venues, Dacapo's digital sound is uniformly transparent and immediate, an ideal combination.

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