My Unattainable Goal

Interview with Danish composer Vagn Holmboe
Vagn Holmboe. Photo: Paul Høm 1988.

By Anders Beyer

Anders Beyer: You came from Jutland to Copenhagen to take the entrance exams for The Royal Danish Academy of Music. Tell us the story.

Vagn Holmboe: In 1926 I went to the Director of the Academy, Anton Svendsen. I showed him some compositions, a trio, and some other things and asked him if it was adequate for admission. I knew no theory of any sort and I only knew that a fifth was the fourth finger on the violin. Svendsen said, ‘Take private instruction in theory for a year and then you can probably enter’. He said it in a very friendly and kindly way, but when the December exams came I went to take them anyway. I knew very well that it was a bold thing to do, but I had composed a quartet and studied several pieces for violin, among them a Handel Sonata, and I played the Sibelius ‘Berceuse’ on the piano. I thought that I could justify applying on that basis.

It happened, however, that I wasn’t called into the exam itself because one after the other my fellow students went in, played, and came out—in alphabetical order—and ‘H’ was skipped. When everything was over and I thought that my chance had passed, a little man came out. He had grey hair and was very friendly. I didn’t know who he was; only later did I find out who he was—no, yes—I found out that it was Carl Nielsen. He said, ‘Let’s go into room A so we can look at your things’. That we did, and he asked if I could play, so I played some of the Handel Sonata and some of the Sibelius. I had my quartet with me and he looked at it. When he had looked through it he put his hand on it and said, ‘Yes, you can consider yourself admitted’. I was totally surprised and happy, so I took the first train home and woke my mother and father in the morning to tell them that I had been admitted. It meant that my father had to support me for the next three years.

AB: Later you were hired as a teacher in several places, among them, at the Academy.

VH: I had a minor job at the public music school, then I worked at the Institute for the Blind in charge of ear training and as a choral conductor. That helped a bit financially. Then I was hired by the Academy in 1939.

AB: You were a reviewer with the newspaper, Politiken, but you also wrote reviews in Dansk Musik Tidsskrift. They say that the tone can be brusque these days but you could also be tough then. I’m thinking about your discussion of Jørgen Bentzon’s Dickens Symfoni (Symphony No. 1 in D Major, 1939–40) in Dansk Musik Tidsskrift.

VH: Yes, I regret it a bit today. I thought that Bentzon could compose better than he had in that work. That was the basis for my criticism. Bentzon wanted to be as popular as Riisager. He was actually jealous of Riisager, because of his popularity. I said, ‘Cut it out’! He had composed En romersk fortælling (A Roman Story) which was remarkable, but when he composed the Dickens Symfoni, I thought he had gone in the wrong direction, that is, against his ability to do something intense.

AB: For how many years were you actually a critic at Politiken?

VH: Seven. That was right after World War II. I remember that when I said, ‘I think I should leave the paper’, the Editor-in-Chief, Hasager said promptly, ‘I can give you twice the salary and completely free licence’. But I realized that if I were to do that I would be tied for the rest of my life, for it would raise my standard of living and I could never find another job at the same level. So I said ‘No’. I wasn’t a natural newspaper man. It is also a poor combination to be a composer and a reviewer. You can’t be free in both positions and you have to be!

Folk music

AB: When you first started to compose you were very clearly interested in folk music from the Balkans. Sven Erik Tarp is supposed to have teased you once by saying, ‘We all like Vagn Holmboe’s Romanian folk rhythms from Horsens’ (a town in Jutland, ed.). Tell me about your early years as a composer and how folk music inspired your own music?

VH: I was in Romania in 1933–34 in order to study Romanian folk music. (I also met my wife Meta there—we were married in Romania.) I visited the mountains and listened to the songs of the shepherds and to the different gypsy ensembles that played for Saturday dances in the country villages. When I came home, I was naturally influenced by the whole Balkan region, including Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia and Greece. What interested me was not the picturesque character of the music, even though it was, of course, very entertaining to listen to the music on the tapes that we had made. The thing is, this music had nothing directly to do with my music. It’s simply not possible to plagiarize folk music without making it bad. But I am very interested in the basis of folk music; it’s direct and emotional and it combines deep feelings with clear expression. There was something elementary in this music that I had already come into contact with in Copenhagen in the music of the Neue Sachlichkeit, namely, to get down to basics and then build from there.

When I came home there was a certain influence from folk music, especially with respect to rhythm. My rhythm became completely free, because every kind of rhythm is found in folk music. Its natural rhythms, be they 13/8 or 7/8, are tied to the dance steps or to the text that is being sung. This interested me and therefore many of my works, especially those in the 1930s and 1940s, are based on specific rhythms. The melodies themselves are influenced by the simplicity of folk music. I go along with Joseph Haydn, who also used folk music in his works—not that I am asking to be compared to Haydn.

AB: What was it like to come back with that inspiration from folk music to a music scene that was dominated by Riisager, Tarp and Koppel, who had a completely different attitude towards creating music? At least one of these composers is considered a writer of divertimenti. Your music must have seemed austere, or sober, with a foreign air about it. What was it like to create music and get it performed in Denmark in the 1930s?

VH: The situation was very difficult in Copenhagen when I and my wife, Meta, were getting established. There was high unemployment and it wasn’t possible to get a teaching position. I couldn’t get either theory or violin students, and my wife, who was a pianist, couldn’t get piano students either. There was almost no opportunity to get works performed. The only possibility was the concert series being produced by Det Unge Tonekunstnerselskab (DUT, or The Society for Young Composers). Here I could, in the course of a year, get two or three works, or, in the best years, four or five, performed. At DUT we composers met with each other and heard each other’s works. There was also a bit of help from art exhibitions where our music was played. The situation was actually very difficult.

Musically there were two camps or directions (even though in Denmark we don’t go in for having ‘camps’ as much as they do in Sweden or Germany). One direction was influenced by French music and was represented by Riisager, Tarp and Schultz, and the other was more based more on the Neue Sachlichkeit style, but developed further. Amongst the older generation this direction was represented by Jørgen Bentzon and Finn Høffding. Among younger composers, it attracted Syberg, Koppel and myself. There were several others who emerged and disappeared again. We all knew each other and got along well enough but we had different aesthetic perceptions.

In our camp we took things a bit more seriously, we wanted to move on to something new—beyond Neue Sachlichkeit, and on to something different. And at the end of the 1930s when the political crises were mounting, something happened, there was an emotional tension. My own music had been based on a certain matter-of-factness, a kind of clarity because I had searched for something elementary, but this increasingly disappeared—not clarity, hopefully—but the goal itself became something else, a spiritual goal that was not least due to the beginning of the war and Nazism’s negative impact.

The Symphony is dead

AB: When you talk about the atmosphere among composers at that time, the two camps, and the easy exchange of ideas, I am reminded of a certain article in Dansk Musik Tidsskrift from 1940 in which you have a discussion with Knudåge Riisager. Let me read your questioning reply to his statements.

You write, ‘The symphony is dead’, but I have to ask anyway: What is dead? What do we understand today by the concept of a symphony? Do you mean by a symphony a work for orchestra with a cyclical form divided into parts, with a principal movement in the so-called sonata form, with special tempo designations and development, and a more-or-less major-minor tonal melody and harmony, that is, a classic-romantic symphony?

When I read that, I have the feeling that you were at work on your own symphonic development and therefore felt a bit offended that there was suddenly a colleague who was declaring the symphony dead. Was this exchange of ideas part of the development of your own symphonic language?

VH: Yes. The discussion about whether the symphony as a principle was alive or dead was important to me at that time because I was concentrating on the concept of the symphony. I took an interest in Riisager’s article. I understood very well that from Riisager’s point of view, music was determined by clear norms, and these could not be symphonic in the real understanding of the word. There couldn’t be any deep conflict or strong background in this music, though there could be a very nice musical development. Therefore I thought that it was only an aesthetic difference. My view was that the symphony was alive, not in its old form, but in a steadily- and perpetually-renewed form. This is what you can see today, for the young and younger composers are still writing symphonies. So, in that sense one can say that the symphony is still alive.

AB: Can you describe in more detail the difference between your music at that time and the music of Riisager, Tarp and Nielsen?

VH: Yes, in just a few words: I am from Jylland (Jutland). You have an entirely different outlook if you have roots in Jylland than if you are from Fyn (Funen) or from Sjælland (Sealand). I very much like both the Sjælland attitude with its fine shades of sentiment as found in the music of Gade, for instance, and the one typical of Fyn, as found in Carl Nielsen’s music. The characteristics of Jylland are something different again. One reason is that there is a greater, what shall I say, I won’t say ‘seriousness’ for there is certainly seriousness in Nielsen’s and Gade’s music, but, in my case, an urge to go beyond what you find in their music.

AB: At that time you were affectionately called the ‘Danish Parsifal’. There is something stern and pure about your music and perhaps also your life, meaning your life-style. Do you agree with this characterization?

VH: Well Ok. It is a little bit of a cliché but it is close enough to the truth when you think about it. I actually look for—I looked for, anyway—something very basic on which to build my music. That means I would not, for my life, give up melody as a chief principle. For me, it belongs to the primal core of music. I am well aware that rhythm came before melody—a million years before possibly—but for me music’s ability to sing, and to communicate something is decisive. A single tone can be a melody.

First String Quartet

AB: If we look at the formal structure there is no trace of Germanic formal structure, nor Italian, nor for that matter, Russian. I have the feeling that we would need to go to an entirely different place, that is, Arabia. You said once that as a young man you wanted to study Arabic music and that you got in touch with the researcher Gottfried Skjerne. You wanted to learn all the tonalities and the entire background of Arabic music. When I hear, for example, your First String Quartet, I perceive scales that refer to, or somehow recall, the Far East. Can you describe the Arabic element in your music?

VH: For many years, since I was really young—I was interested in the music of the Orient, both the art music and, of course, the folk music. The art music is particularly interesting in certain countries, China, Japan, India and certain Arabic countries and the last was the reason I went to Romania. My goals were not to study Balkan music; I wanted to go via Romania to the Near East, Syria, Lebanon, and on to Egypt, and if I could have afforded to do so, on to Algeria. There were certain forms of music that interested me greatly and that I knew from German phonograph field recordings. I didn’t get any farther than Romania because I fell ill with typhus. I survived but I had to turn around and go back home. Therefore I had to make do with the insight that I got from Balkan music.

With respect to the First String Quartet being affected by foreign sounds, maybe that’s correct. I haven’t thought of it before, but perhaps the sound has something Indian about it. The first movement begins with a long solo that is then developed and corresponds rather closely to the Arabic taxim, or sometimes simbesrim. These are quite rare forms of instrumental music. The simbesrim is found mostly in Algeria, it can last 2-3 hours. A taxim is a prelude to a song or a piece of music, or just a prelude to itself, so to speak. The long viola solo in the opening is actually close to the principle of the taxim. I hadn’t thought about it until now.

AB: I thought of an Indian raga when I heard it. There is a foreign ornamental quality in the melody, and at the same time a search for balance. If a melody goes high, it is balanced with something that descends. It seems to me that two qualities co-exist, an inspiration from foreign melody that I find unique in Danish music and a search for balance. Can you relate to that summation?

VH: It is difficult to comment on one’s own music except to say that it comes forth when you dig deep in yourself. Obviously my music has a physical basis, including my knowledge of American, Asiatic and African musics, which is quite comprehensive. This knowledge will of necessity have an impact on me and must collide with my own nature that is neither Asiatic nor American. What makes music worthwhile is the interplay between that which comes out of your soul and those things you hear from the outside—the latter disappear again, but they leave their impact. For all I know, I have very seldom quoted folk music or any other music, except for some really short verses of Gregorian chant and one Croatian folk ballad—only one verse to give just the right character to the appropriate place. Otherwise, the music itself is different.

AB: Would you say that the First String Quartet is an homage to Bartók? Bartók’s Sixth String Quartet also begins with a long viola solo.

VH: My First String Quartet is very likely influenced by Bartók’s work, for his set of six quartets are, in my opinion, a major monument in the history of the string quartet. As for my quartet I see in my notebook that it is composed In memoriam Béla Bartók. However, I see that the dedication doesn’t appear in the score.

AB: No, but it is entered in your notes from 1949. Specifically, one hears the reference to Bartók in the uneven metres and rhythms, 3+3+2.

VH: The music does not stem directly from Bartók but it is parallel, you could say, for I was familiar with this kind of expression before I became acquainted with Bartók’s music. I knew about the free rhythm and I knew about the free tonality—we may call it modality—and was aware that music couldn’t be forced into 4/4 or 3/4 time. A bar in 7/8 can be a liberation, that was what I was looking for, or, to put it better: among other things, in folk music I found a liberation typically based on dance steps. That made it possible for me to be free rhythmically and played a certain role—admittedly a diminishing one—because the melodic element became more and more compelling.

AB: Let’s talk about the development of form in the First String Quartet. It is very difficult to fit the work into a classical form—sonata form, or other variation forms we know about. We could call it organic composition: the music develops like a plant that grows, things are derived from each other. This kind of composition results in repetition of material as well as development of material, but it doesn’t lead to new, earth-shaking ideas. How do you yourself understand this form of musical development?

VH: It has always been very important to me that music unfolds organically. The music of the classical masters can sometimes be a little four-square because of specific formal criteria. For me it was crucial that music develop independently of what happened tonally, melodically and rhythmically: one aspect should relate directly to the other, positively or negatively. In that way an organic form ought to emerge and I have found this process confirmed in nature innumerable times.

It has been inspiring for me to look at nature and not just say, ‘Oh isn’t it beautiful’, but rather to follow the growth cycles and see how plants live and die, how life comes to an end and how an organism develops. Often it is just simply hard to understand how a little seed can become a huge fir tree; it’s beyond our comprehension. Even the special ways in which things grow interest me. I believe that it has influenced me. Not the picturesque, but nature’s inner strengths.

AB: When foreigners hear music from Nordic countries they often expect lyricism à la Grieg and Sibelius, and they find this in your music, too. It’s difficult to say how this relates to purely musical elements because it’s risky to draw those kinds of parallels. But sometimes I hear the austerity that we spoke about as a consequence of your use of fourths. For example the first movement of the Sixth Symphony consists of almost nothing but fourths, and they are also found in the First String Quartet. Brahms’s and Strauss’s musical world is based on thirds, yours on fourths. This interval introduces a kind of stoic nobility, a dignified music. Could you explain what the interval of the fourth means to you?

VH: It has something of a double meaning. On the one hand I am worried about it, but on the other there is something life-giving about a fourth because it’s free; it’s independent. A third is dependent and has associations with a triad, but a fourth is so far away from the tonic, that is, it has a freer relationship to its surroundings. The interval of the fourth itself has, at certain times, been immeasurably important to me. It was a major element in the Sixth Symphony. And I don’t really know why, only that it took years to sketch that work.

Vagn Holmboe in his home i Ramløse. Photo: Anders Beyer 1996.

AB: From the end of the 1940s to your most recent works—that is, the choral works—I find consistent use of fourths. What I see and hear is a persistent investigation of a compositional tradition that dismisses the notion of an avantgarde rupture. It is one long evolution. Am I right to say that there has been no break in your way of thinking since about the time of the First String Quartet?

VH: As far as I can remember, there has been no ‘break’ in my music, but during certain periods there have been eruptive developments of one aspect or another. As far as the concept of the interval of the fourth is concerned, it’s still important to me today. Although theoretical things don’t interest me much, I am just about ready to compose a piece in which the fourth plays an indirect role. Now that we speak about it, I realize that the fourth remains something of a ‘mysterium’ for me.

Apollo and Dionysus

Let’s go back to the period around 1949-1950, when the First String Quartet was composed. A glance at your worklist reveals that it was a very productive period in your life. There are many new works. In the string quartets one can trace the development, particularly in the rhythm because of your interest in Balkan music. During this period you seem to have found your own voice as a composer. Is it possible to say that with the First String Quartet Holmboe emerged as a composer with his own personality?

VH: Yes, it’s hardly a mistake to say that my First String Quartet marked a kind of turning point, or a starting point. I was prepared for it, but suddenly my composing broke free in those years. Yes, it must have been 1949. I composed a number of works all at once, in the course of a short period of time. It was unusual, I normally give myself a fair amount of time to compose a piece. Specific categories of compositions usually require that a set amount of time be devoted to them. For example, it usually takes nine months to compose a symphony. But a quartet, which usually takes about three months, at that point took hardly a month to finish. Speed has nothing to do with the quality of the music or the kind of piece, we are simply talking about a sudden tidal wave that came rushing through.

AB: Your work must have been like some kind of ecstasy then.

VH: Yes that’s what it was, and that’s what it still is, but it takes longer to compose now. After about half an hour I get out of breath and have to go and rest for about an hour. Then I can get down to it again.

AB: Could you talk a bit about the music scene in those years? It must have been stimulating, since you were able to be so productive. Presumably there were ties to the works from the war years, but it seems as if a whole new Vagn Holmboe emerged about 1949.

VH: I don’t think that trends in music played a role at that time because everything was stagnant; even in 1949 things hadn’t fully recovered. I think that I was motivated by inner causes. I came to a point in my personal development which made it necessary to write music, and, you could almost say, another kind of music. I had been getting ready for it for a long time.

AB: In 1940 you won a prize for the Second Symphony and you also had the kind of success that led to performances. The inauguration of the Danish Radio Concert Hall in 1945 was celebrated by a premiere of your symphony.

VH: Yes. I composed some symphonies before the quartet. The Second Symphony was premiered in a competition, and the same happened with the next one. It was the Fourth that was premiered for the opening of the Radio Hall after the war. But the real breakthrough came only after the war. One is not even aware of such developments oneself because one experiences music on different levels. One can comprehend it analytically, technically, and formally by analysing it bar for bar; the lowest level is the subliminal one where you have eruptions of the mind. Between the two is the level where these eruptions must be brought within artistic boundaries, which means toning down the excessively wild parts. The mind itself wants to gesticulate too much—like an actor who flails his arms around so that everything turns into a farce. It’s the same in music: if you gesticulate too much and lack an apollonian restraint, then it goes awry. There has to be a balance between these three levels. The composer may be indifferent about analysis; it’s not inherent to composing and I don’t think that composing should start with analysis either. But the other two levels, the wild one—you could call it the dionysian—and the restraining, or the restrained one—the apollonian—are important.

AB: These are the ideas you wrote about in Mellemspil (Interlude), your book that was published in 1961. For you, music starts with looking for the balance between the apollonian and the dionysian; the two poles should be balanced at all times.

VH: The apollonian runs the risk of easily becoming too academic, boring and formally over-correct. The dionysian runs the risk of turning completely wild. The right balance between the two will force the dionysian to stay within limits and make the apollonian come down off its pedestal. In the best cases, you find a good balance which may swing out into either side.

AB: And then there is the melodic element that you have never deserted. Since you discovered Balkan folk music you use simple, but intensely emotional melodies and contain them within your own framework. Would it be appropriate to describe this as controlled ecstasy?

VH: In certain circumstances you might. Violence can be mastered by the intellect and balance achieved that way. But that balance is as fine as a strand of hair. It can swing up and down—that is, up into the academic and down into the primitive. But between the two lies a wealth of possibilities. It is important for me that melody is allowed a predominant part. Not that there has to be a pretty melody or anything like that—it isn’t actual melodies that I am seeking. It is rather that a note should sing from inside the work, and it’s unimportant if it is one note, or twenty, or a whole work. It needs to be able to sing. Even in the most technically complex jungle you should be able to tell that the music behind sings and even if no melody stands out, it’s there anyway. That’s my goal—my unattainable goal!

Vagn Holmboe. Photo: Paul Høm 1988.
Flexible themes

AB: Let us look closely at the melodic element in the First String Quartet. The first theme immediately illustrates that themes in your work have two aspects. They may be used in passages that are loud, strong and intense. Molto intensivo, it says in the score. But the same theme has another side so that it may function in a pianissimo lyrical passage. You can hear this in several places in the First Quartet; the themes are very flexible.

VH: What has interested me is not so much the melodies, but the melodic quality that allows for both a powerful dynamic development and for motivic material that lends itself to a more pastoral, or softer, character. It is this that makes these themes, or motifs, flexible—so that they can transform themselves and change—with the flow of the music.

AB: In the second movement of the First Quartet, you maintain a mood, almost a Buddhistic emptiness, an attention to nothingness. We are not on the way to any particular place. We might think, ‘Now a main theme is about to appear’, but it doesn’t come. It is like a contemplative, inward-searching, almost meditative experience. Is this the way it was intended?

VH: The second movement of my First Quartet is rather special as it is introduced with a sound image that has a melodic aspect, but doesn’t go anywhere. Suddenly it is transformed into a number of variations or variation-like segments, which are very unruly but which are somehow kept under cover, almost deviously so. The movement is quite strange; I cannot analyse it myself, it’s not possible. I have the feeling that this is something I never did before and never will do again.

AB: What do you mean?

VH: It means that this special connection won’t be repeated again in my work. I mean, this ennobled calm at the beginning, over a deep bass note in the cello, and then, a melodic turn in the upper strings followed by the more rapid and intense parts won’t be encountered again. This constellation has a very special formation here but not one that I could imagine doing today.

AB: A survey of your work over the last 25 years reveals a period in which your music enjoyed less favour than it does today. Right now there is a great interest in what’s melodic, recognizable and intense. There was, however, a rather long period when the younger generation took over, ca. the 1960s, when younger composers following new trends held new aesthetic points of view. What was it like to observe that developments were taking a different direction from yours?

VH: It seems that when composers are between forty and fifty they are considered derelicts, but they compose all the same. Bach did that, but he was already definitely pushed to the side by Telemann, Matthesson, Stamitz, and so on, because of the advent of a new style. The rococo came forth and pushed aside the old baroque style. It affected music, architecture, everything. The same thing happens in every era. When a composer is a certain age, a new generation comes along and it has just as much right as the older one had.

For my part, it was very clear that in the course of the 1950s the next generation was ready to take over. I couldn’t follow where they wanted to go in the 1960s. Well, I could follow, but I couldn’t really do anything in that direction and it is clear that at that point my music became less conspicuous in the concert halls, but I have never noticed any lack of attention. I have never felt that I was pushed to the side or stepped on. In any case I have continued to compose and I was just as happy, because for me it was more important to get things composed than it was to get them performed.

The new generation has my full approval; they did the same that we did in the 1930s when we broke with the previous generation. We looked up to them in the beginning but then distanced ourselves from them because we thought that we had to move on. Our students or the next generation have to move, and they will. They have to distance themselves from us, that is, Koppel and me—unfortunately Syberg is no longer alive—and Niels Viggo Bentzon, he also belongs to our generation. I have always felt it was natural, like when you see a beech tree grow. Everything follows a necessary order and the tree’s leaves wither away to make room for the new leaves that will come next year. I am pleased when the younger composers succeed.

AB: Are you thinking of anyone in particular?

VH: I can’t remember names very well, but I listen to their music now and then. I don’t want to name anybody in particular because I might forget someone who should be mentioned.


AB: You have been a collector throughout your long life; some of your collections have been used in your music. Your transcriptions of street cries, which have been published in book form, seem far removed from your work as a composer.

VH: When I came to Copenhagen, I lived in Østerbro. It was really amusing to write down the street cries there. I took down thirty or forty of them. I was used to transcribing and would really have liked to have been an ethnomusicologist, only I couldn’t stop composing. I took the mornings off and cycled around the city as much as possible. Later I cycled from town to town, to Sorø, Slagelse and around Jylland.

AB: Can you remember some of them still?

VH: Yes, let’s see if I can remember them—(sings/shouts) ‘Cauliflower, cauliflower . . . ’, ‘Straaaaw, here are straaaa’, ‘cauliflower, cauliflower, cauliflower’. You turn on the interval of the second and on the third—that’s central to all music, even in Cambodia, South America and Africa.

AB: What are you working on at the moment?

VH: Just now I am working on a kind of concerto grosso for string quartet and string orchestra. I am having some problems with those famous fourths—I am trying to combine them with trills and such like. In short, this new work is something quite technical, though it doesn’t have a technical cause but a musical one. I would really like to have the music shimmer a bit in some places. I am happy that I can still compose.

AB: And in what direction is your music moving just now? Is it a new direction or a continuation of your work in recent years?

VH: I always believe that it will be a continuation. I don’t believe in a break because that is just an intellectual exercise. As far as I am concerned, music has always been continuous, something that grows.

© Anders Beyer 2000.

The interview was published in Anders Beyer, The Voice of Music. Conversations with composers of our time, Ashgate Publishing, London 2000. The interview was also published in Danish Music Review vol. 71, no. 2 (1996/97): page 219-223.


Vagn Holmboe (1906-96), the most important Danish composer and teacher in the period between Carl Nielsen (d. 1931) and the post-war generation of composers, studied with Finn Høffding and Knud Jeppesen at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. Inspired by the folk music of Romania and influenced by Bartók, Stravinsky and Haydn, Holmboe strove to achieve clarity in his musical expression. The style of his music owes much to his own ‘metamorphosis technique’, his term for his approach to melodic transformation. His large output is published by Edition Wilhelm Hansen; recordings are to be found on BIS and Marco Polo. Dacapo is engaged in recording all of Holmboe’s symphonies, string quartets and chamber concertos.