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Kronos Plays Holmgreen


Release Date: 10/28/2008 
Label:  Dacapo   Catalog #: 6220548   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgree
Performer:  David HarringtonHank DuttJohn SherbaJeffrey Zeigler,   ... 
Conductor:  Thomas Dausgaard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Danish National Symphony OrchestraKronos Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

3241360.az_HOLMGREEN_Concerto_1_Moving.html

HOLMGREEN Concerto grosso. 1 Moving Still. 2 Last Ground 1 Kronos Qrt; 1,2 Paul Hillier (bar); 2 Thomas Read more Dausgaard,cond; 1 Danish Natl SO 1 dacapo 6.220548 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 66:57)


It is difficult to imagine that anyone with an interest in innovative music style and language would not be fascinated by the work of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. For these ears, this is a vivid example of music that can be admired and supported that is not, ultimately, especially pleasant to listen to. Let’s be honest; an awful lot of so-called important music falls into this category. I can listen, for example, to Bartók and admire his energy, passion, and important recycling of folk music, but I must admit that I rarely derive pleasure from it. Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 is a good case. The opening features an extraordinarily powerful hook; it is as pungent, original, and dramatically compelling as any classical concerto beginning I know, but I quickly lose interest after that. My reaction to the Concerto grosso that is the featured work here is similar. Holmgreen has a brilliant and highly original feel for texture. The scoring of this work, string quartet as the concerto soloists, with a chamber orchestra light on strings and unusually dominated by percussion, produces amazing sounds, large, even, to use the composer’s word, turgid, but at the same time remarkably transparent. The sheer noise of the music immediately pulls you in.


But then what? Holmgreen eschews the traditional multimovement structure of the Baroque concerto, instead stringing together a series of encounters between the quartet and the ensemble, with only subtle variations in dynamics and tempo, lasting for nearly a half hour. The discreetly driving, jazzy rhythm lends the piece a kind of free-jazz aura. As is the case with most free-jazz jams, I find myself fascinated by many elements of the music, and imagine the possibility of a shorter, more concise way of expression. Others succumb to the hypnotic nature of this kind of music-making. I become bored.


Moving Still consists of two separate pieces for baritone and string quartet, featuring Paul Hillier, yes, the Hilliard Ensemble guy, as the vocalist. Actually, he doesn’t sing so much as recite the words in “Moving,” a setting of a wonderful piece of prose by Holmgreen’s Danish compatriot, Hans Christian Anderson, in which the 19th-century writer imagines a future world in which Americans fly over the ocean and “do Europe in a week.” He even predicts the chunnel, as the means by which the Americans travel from England to France. The music is appropriately energetic and quick moving (in the opening, the vocalist does a sort of countdown, symbolizing, perhaps, American impatience), but the whole construction is too clever for its own good. The setting distracts the listener from the words more so than it enhances them. The second part of the work, “Still,” deliberately drops down in tempo and energy in order to shift over to a more European (read: serious) point of view. The loving setting of Anderson’s patriotic poem In Denmark I Was Born is a welcome example of unabashed national pride and devotion.


The CD concludes with the ninth string quartet of Holmgreen ( Last Ground ), written for the Kronos Quartet in 2006. It is in a single movement, beginning and ending with recorded sounds of a roaring ocean. Here, the gimmickry works. The blending of recorded sounds of nature and instrumental music is effective and moving, a beautiful tribute to the power of nature, representing a kind of Danish impressionism. There is much on this collection of music that is similarly evocative, as well as much that is rather frustrating, but that mix reflects a powerful musical talent.


FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto grosso for String Quartet and Orchestra by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgree
Performer:  David Harrington (Violin), Hank Dutt (Viola), John Sherba (Violin),
Jeffrey Zeigler (Cello)
Conductor:  Thomas Dausgaard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Danish National Symphony Orchestra,  Kronos Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990/1995; Denmark 
2.
Moving Still for Baritone/Tape and String Quartet by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgree
Performer:  John Sherba (Violin), Paul Hillier (Baritone), David Harrington (Violin),
Hank Dutt (Viola), Jeffrey Zeigler (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kronos Quartet
Written: 2004; Denmark 
3.
Last Ground for String Quartet and Tape by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgree
Performer:  John Sherba (Violin), Jeffrey Zeigler (Cello), David Harrington (Violin),
Hank Dutt (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kronos Quartet
Written: 2006; Denmark 

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