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Complete Symphonies 1-13 / Sinfonia in Memoriam Box set


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Product details

  • Audio CD (19 Nov. 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 6
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Bis
  • ASIN: B0000016P9
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,210,946 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 May 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The hugely prolific Vagn Holmboe (1909-96) was the successor to Carl Nielsen as the greatest Danish symphonist of the 20th Century. In terms of sheer power and intensity the only mainstream composer who bares comparison is Shostakovich, but that is a Shostakovich without the laughs or the icy desolation. This is not a stylistic comparison, but one of ethos and impact. Holmboe took the tradition he inherited and found his own definitive voice very early in his career, hitting upon the characteristic recipe of his middle maturity at Symphony No.2, of one fifth ethereal beauty, one fifth tragic nobility and three fifths apocalyptic fury. My encounter with this incredible cycle has obliged me to reassess some of my musical conceptions in that I am used to thinking of music filled with such unmitigated violence as a response to the political and historical realities in which the artist operated. This mode of comprehension started for me with my long and ever deepening connection to Shostakovich, who gave us plenty of clear indications, starting with the very titles of the works themselves, that the grim conditions of life under totalitarianism were what his music was `about'. The still under-appreciated great British symphonist Robert Simpson provides a similar case. His music too is filled with an astonishing and more or less relentless violence that is both exhilarating and terrifying. Simpson would have resisted assertions that his music was directly or consciously `about' his experiences of World War II, or the pervasive menace of the Cold War which followed. Nonetheless, he saw his own music as the natural expression of a human individuality driven to pessimism with respect to human nature and future history. But in Holmboe we encounter a contradiction.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 May 2010
Format: Audio CD
This has got to be an anomolous entry in Amazon's listings as it is offering the box set of Holmboe's complete symphonies at a price rather greater than the sum of those of the individual discs, which can be purchased separately. For anyone interested in Holmboe's complete symphonies, and I cannot recommend enough that they should be approached as a total cycle, then they should be looking at Holmboe: Complete Symphonies which is the identical package at a more rational price.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A must-hear 20th century symphony cycle 24 Oct. 2009
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The Danish composer Vagn Holmboe is woefully underappreciated. Among his 300 works, generally at very high quality, is one of the most consistent and elegant symphony cycles of the 20th century. His 13 symphonies unfold one after the other new perspectives on form and themes, though Holmboe remained committed throughout to the tonal tradition and sought to keep his music cool and balanced along neo-classical lines. BIS has done a great service in recording the entire cycle with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra under Owain Arwel Hughes, and performance and sound quality is at the highest standard.

The First (1935) is a student work in the vein of Nielsen. In the Second (1939), the influence of Bartok first makes itself known, especially the Hungarian composer's highly percussive piano concertos. The Third "Sinfonia rustica" (1941) also recalls Bartok in its use of folk materials, but Holmboe looks to his native Jutland instead of Eastern Europe. The outer two movements are fun dances, while the middle movement is a series of variations on a bittersweet folksong. The Fourth "Sinfonia Sacra" (1941) is really the only disappointing symphony of the bunch, a choral symphony that is too bombastic to succeed as a poignant war requiem.

The Fifth (1944) is generally regarded as Holmboe's first truly mature symphony, lacking extramusical associations like the previous two symphonies, and offering a vast symphonic argument. The first and second movements climax with thick lines underscored by a martial drumbeat, which I think will appeal especially to fans of Allan Pettersson. The Sixth (1947) is especially admirable in the way it incorporates a number of different styles into its development, with Romantic outbursts, classical poise, and even Bartokian strings. At this point Holmboe was increasingly interested in the concept of "metamorphosis", organic growth inspired by Sibelius were the music grows entirely out of its initial theme and each development seems inseparable from the last. The Seventh (1950) seeks to reconcile the Nordic tradition with neo-classicism by breaking a single movement into numerous subsections. The Eighth "Sinfonia boreale" (1952), which is Holmboe's most widely liked symphony, reconciles the two by having four distinct movements but maintaining an unstoppable flow.

At this point, Holmboe reached the end of his stylistic wanderings. The remaining symphonies are progressive refinements of the metamorphosis technique. The "Sinfonia in memoriam" (1956) is usually included in the symphonic cycle, maintaining the spirit of the Eighth but tempering its exuberance by eschewing brass. The Ninth (1969) interrupts the flow of its musical argument with "intermezzo" movements reminiscent of Bartok's "night music". The Tenth (1972) marks the arrival of the "late Holmboe" era, with its severity and its division into three movements, elements to be found in the successive symphonies, the Eleventh (1980), Twelfth (1988) and Thirteen (1995).

If you like Sibelius, Nielsen or Stravinsky's neo-classical phrase you'll probably find Holmboe's music a pleasurable experience. The entire symphonic cycle is worth collecting, and we're fortunate that BIS chose to release this box of all thirteen, offering better value than the individual discs they released through the 1990s.
45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Vagn Holmboe stands next to Shostakovich and Prokofieff. 10 Oct. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Vagn Holmboe is one of the top composers of the 20th Century. His music speaks to us, not with a lot of noise or intellectual mind games that so many "modern" composers try to pass off on us as "music", but he speaks to us through emotion, the calling card of great music. He speaks to us as Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Shostakovich speaks to us. Starting with Symphony No. 1 he makes us sit up in our chairs, knowing that we are going to be in for something special. With the final note of Symphony no. 13, we realize that his recent passing will be missed by those who love great music. Vagn Holmboe's music is not the music of the "now" but the music of humanity. The Aarhus Symphony Orchestra and Owain Arwel Hughes give wonderful performances of each symphony and the BIS sound is never better than in these recordings. If you want 20th Century Music that stands alongside the best of what classical music has to offer, you can't go wrong with Vagn Holmboe's Symphonies.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Wonderfully attractive and compelling music 19 Aug. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This music is fabulous! It absolutely compels one's attention, with its power, directness, and colour. While the thematic and harmonic material is definitely contemporary, these elements are rhytmically and formally framed in recognisable structures. This music holds the listener from beginning to end. Don't miss Holmboe's symphonies!!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent Music 11 Dec. 2010
By Hayward H. Siegel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I agree with the other reviewers that Holmboe's symphonies contain great music, and are a joy to listen to. This set of 6 CDs may not be the most reasonable in price, but after you listen to them, you will conclude that the purchase was worth it. Holmboe is truly one of the best symphony composers of the Twentieth Century. I feel that his symphonies are as good as those of the more well known Danish Composer, Nielsen. I also think that his Symphony No.8 is one of the finest symphonies ever written. None of the symphonies struck me as disappointing. I had one minor problem with the set. The CDs were so well set in their holders, that I had to carefully remove them, to avoid bending or breaking them. Removing them a few times will alleviate this problem. This is a must buy for those who appreciate Twentieth Century music.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great recordings packaged badly 5 July 2014
By Alonso del Arte - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The music is excellent, the packaging is atrocious. Six CDs for the price of four crammed in a box for two. Each disc was so tightly jammed into the case I wondered if all the plastic was fused; if I had used any more force to remove them I would have broken them. And then each disc had debris on its playing surface; with one exception, I had to wash them before my CD player would even recognize them.

Knowing what I know now, I would have bought each CD individually in its own separate case (they're available that way). For those new to Holmboe, I would recommend first buying the first disc of the set, which has Symphonies No.s 1, 3 and 10 on it, because you get both early and late Holmboe on one disc. The First Symphony is toe-tapping good and the Third has the happiest music in all of Holmboe's Symphonies, while the Tenth might not make much of an impression at first. Then the third disc of the set, which has Symphonies No.s 4 and 5, the former bearing some similarity to Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and the latter being a very good example of middle period Holmboe.

And if you like that one, then I would recommend the fifth disc, which has Symphonies No.s 8 and 9. It was the intense, powerful Eighth which made me a fan of his music. I think at this point you'll be a fan too, and then you'll wonder why you didn't buy the complete set right from the get-go. At that point you should remember what I said about how the Complete Symphonies set is packaged.
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