Form and Function

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This week on the New Canon, we survey our current album of the week: the world premiere recordings of 20th-century Danish composer Vagn Holmboe's chamber symphonies, recorded for Dacapo by John Storgards and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra. We take a different tack, however, by playing these three works in reverse and interspersing them with other solid new releases along the way.

Holmboe, a composer who struggled against modernism while teaching some of the style's greatest Danish components (Per Nørgård chief among them) had developed a musical theory of music being mutable and sculptable, a theme he explored explicitly in his third chamber symphony, subtitled "Frieze" and written in a semi-collaborative conjunction with sculptor Arne L. Hansen. The resulting work, like Holmboe's other two symphonies, bursts with vibrancy and color while conveying definitive curvatures and angles.

In that vein, we look at accompanying new works that carry a similar purposeful beauty. From the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and conductor Dennis Russel Davies, we hear selections from Bartók's 27 Two- and Three-Part Choruses and Lutoslawski's Musique funèbre. On the younger end of the spectrum, we also hear from Korean-American pianist and composer Beata Moon with a miniature work that deftly captures the image of a dragonfly in flight, and get a taste for Canadian composer John Oliver with a rip-roaring tour-de-force aptly titled Forging Utopia.