Notes and Editorial Reviews
This set of 3 CDs were published on the occasion of the 90-year Vagn Holmboe's birth. It is the first complete recording of Vagn Holmboe's great work Liber Canticorum. The work is here sung by 6 choirs from the Association of Danish Chamber Choir distributed with various choirs at various rates. - Danica
Choirs and conductors featured in this work:
University Choir Lille MUKO, conductor Jesper Grove Jørgensen
Chamber Choir Carmina, conductor Peter Hanke
Chamber Choir Camerata, conducted by Michael Bojesen
the Royal Chamber Choir, conductor Mogens Dahl
Chamber Choir Hymnia, chairman Flemming Windekilde
Sokkelund Choir, conducted by Morten Schuldt-Jensen.
No choral enthusiast should miss this important and bound-to-be-essential release.
It’s true that Danish composer Vagn Holmboe (1909-96) was one of the most highly gifted choral composers of the 20th century. However, judging from choral concert programs and listings in the CD catalog, few people outside certain parts of Northern Europe seem to know this. And that’s too bad because as this recording shows–all two-and-one-half hours on three discs–performers and listeners have been missing out on some wonderful music. To be fair, many of these pieces are technically demanding, beyond the reach of most amateur choirs; but many others are manageable and certainly well worth a challenge on the order of Brahms or Bruckner motets. And virtually all of these pieces are agreeable and accessible to ears that enjoy melody, polyphonic textures, and episodes of modal writing (think of Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor), packaged in a solid, traditional harmonic framework, but spiced with sudden, sometimes startling forays onto the spiky ledges of atonality (without falling over). Although it’s difficult to identify a particular compositional trademark, there are many familiarities with early-to-mid-20th century composers–especially English ones whose stylistic lineage traces back to Brahms–namely Stanford, Parry, and Vaughan Williams. There’s even an occasional brush up against Kodály.
The recording title, Liber Canticorum, means “Book of Songs”. Specifically, this is a collection of motets that Holmboe composed during a 30-year period (1951-84)–an ongoing project to which he periodically returned “as a place to take refuge” from his other work. There are 34 movements in all, contained in 17 opus numbers and five volumes. Settings are of Old Testament texts, in Latin, and the a cappella scoring ranges from double-chorus to single chamber choir. You might think that the quality or stylistic integrity would vary from first piece to last, but there’s an amazing consistency to it, which supports the case for the entire collection’s validity as a gigantic unified work. The best complete pieces are the three sets that make up Op. 59–these exceptionally effective settings of Psalm texts just have a coherence and cohesiveness that sounds inspired, and the choirs that perform them here convince us that they are born to the music. In fact all six of the Danish chamber choirs that perform on this program give profound evidence to the fact that there’s no shortage of world-class choral singing in Denmark. The sound is vivid and well-balanced and, especially in the double-choir selections, mercifully uncrowded. No choral enthusiast should miss this important and bound-to-be-essential release.
- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Liber Canticorum, Op. 54 by Vagn Holmboe
Jesper Grove Jorgensen,
University Choir Lille Muko,
Chamber Choir Carmina
Period: 20th Century
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