Nightingale String Quartet continue fine Vagn Holmboe series

The three string quartets in this volume span almost 50 years. And yet there’s a common thread. All three were in the final stage of Vagn Holboe’s career. In 1950, Holboe retired from active musical life. He and his wife moved into a farm overlooking a lake. 

And while he never ceased composing, move towards self-isolation was significant. In the postwar era, contemporary music was all about ideologies, such as serialism. Holmboe neither embraced these modernist trends nor did he react against them. 

He simply ignored them and wrote the music he wanted to write. Like these three quartets. 

The first dates from 1949, and it’s perhaps the edgiest of the three. By the time he composed his 14th string quartet in 1975, he had settled into his style. The transitions sound smoother, and the harmonies are more fully realized. 

Holmboe died while working on his 21st string quartet. It was completed by his student, Per Nørgård. It, too, has the smoothness of his late quartets. Holmboe was primarily concerned with organic development of motifs. And that, too, is a characteristic that runs through all three of these quartets.  

The Nightingale Quartet has a warm ensemble sound. The recording puts them in somewhat a soft focus. But it’s still an enjoyable listening experience. 

The Nightingale Quarte has a clear affinity for Danish composers. Witness their traversal of Rued Langgaard quartets. And their expertise in bringing this music to life. Volume one — and now volume two — of their Holmboe series reinforces those impressions. 

This is the quartet that should be recording these works. And I’m glad they are. 

Vagn Holmboe: String Quartets Vol. 2
Nightingale String Quartet
Dacapo 6.220717

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