Since the early 1990s, BIS has dedicated much attention to the orchestral music of the Danish composer Vagn Holmboe, recording Danish ensembles conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes. Here we find three late works for flute, performed by the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra, recordist Dan Laurin and flautist Manuela Wiesler. What makes these works typical of Holmboe is their tonal language, though with much bending and stretching, and an emphasis on organic development in the Nordic manner though in a neoclassical frame. What makes them typical late Holmboe is their economy of means.
The Concerto for Recorder, Strings, Celesta and Vibrphone op. 122 (1974) is in three movements, which vary between alto and soprano recorder. While Holmboe took inspiration from Bela Bartok's use of folk materials and rhythmic zest, it was only in Holmboe's late music that one hears anything similar to Bartok's "night music", and the second movement is in such a slow and quiet vein. The third movement includes a few extended techniques, unusual for Holmboe, such as speaking through the instrument.
The Flute Concerto No. 1 op. 126 (1975) is a bit too severe for my liking. Holmboe generally sought a balance between "Apollonian" and "Dionysian" elements in his music, but in this piece he seems to have collapsed towards the latter extreme. This concerto has Holmboe's characteristic orchestration, but it's somehow faceless when set against his total oeuvre, much like Stravinsky's "Jeu de cartes". Things get much better with the Flute Concerto No. 2 op. 147 (1982). This one is rather more dramatic, with an epic-sounding confrontation in its first movement and a wistful adagio in its second. As the third movement opens, the instrumental writing is especially full of character, with strumming on the strings as the third movement opens, and the flautist gets space for an abundant cadenza.
Holmboe is an interesting character with much original to say in terms of musical form. I'm not sure if this disc would work as a good introduction--try his Symphony No. 8 for that--but fans of the composer will gain much pleasure from this disc.