Owain Arwel Hughes

Vagn Holmboe: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9

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Vagn Holmboe, the great Danish master of the modernist symphony, composed his Symphony No. 8 in 1951 when he was 32 years old. It is a mature and powerful work, a work that embodies Holmboe's technique of symphonic metamorphosis in music that is at once concentrated and expansive, austere and expressive, intensely concentrated and wildly ecstatic. Holmboe didn't write his next symphony for 16 years because his next would be his Symphony No. 9 and not only does a Ninth have to compete with Beethoven's, it is almost unfailingly a composer's last symphony. Holmboe's Ninth is no Symphony No. 9. It is, instead, a symphony written in 1968 by the Danish master of the modernist symphony and which embodies in an even more highly evolved incarnation of the technique of symphonic metamorphosis in music that is every bit as brilliant and profound as the music of the symphony before it, but 16 years more brilliant and more profound. It is, in other words, as great a modernist symphony as has been written. In this 1993 BIS recording by Owain Arwel Hughes and the Århus Symphony Orchestra, both Holmboe's Eighth and Ninth are superbly realized. Hughes affinity for Holmboe's individualistic language is complete, the playing of the Århus' dedication to Holmboe's idiosyncratic language is total. BIS' sound is clear, lucid, overwhelming, and as good as digital sound gets.

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