Vagn Holmboe

1909 - 1996



As a composer Vagn Holmboe turns away from complex composition processes and musical convolutedness and rather employs concepts like logic, consistency and clarity – similar to what we find in Viennese Classicism. The music of Joseph Haydn was a great source of inspiration, just as one senses influences from Carl Nielsen, Jean Sibelius, Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartok. Holmboe’s thirteen symphonies constitute the core of his oeuvre. Add to this an extensive series of solo concertos for virtually every symphonic instrument. His more than 20 string quartets occupy a stunning and central position among the chamber works. And finally, Holmboe’s vast production of pieces for mixed choir a cappella should not go unmentioned, particularly his Liber Canticorum series.
Critical Acclaim
...Often the notion 'New Danish Music' brings to mind but one immediate image: that of Vagn Holmboe's kind serious profile - Karl Aage Rasmussen, Noteworthy Danes
...Holmboe's quartets are one of the great treasures of the last century and one that should endure for as long as audiences have even the slightest grip on an attention span - Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International


Vagn Holmboe studied composition with Knud Jeppesen and Finn Høffding at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He undertook further studies in Berlin and in Romania, where the folk music was a great inspiration to him. 

Holmboe himself taught at the Academy in Copenhagen from 1950 (from 1956 as a professor) but he resigned in 1965 in order to devote himself to his composition work. 

As a composer Holmboe avoids laborlousness and 'originality' for originality's sake. Key words are logic, consequence and clarity, which are found for example in Viennese Classical style. Thus the music of Haydn has been a particular source of inspiration. 

Of composers from the 20th century Holmboe is particularly influenced by Carl Nielsen and Sibelius, and by Stravinsky and Bartok. 

Holmboe has composed in most of the genres of music. Among the works for orchestra the 13 symphonies are particularly noticable. The thirteenth of these (written in 1995) received its world premiere on 1 March 1996 with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. All the symphonies have currently been recorded on CD by the BIS label. 

Holmboe has also composed solo concerti for most of the instruments of the symphony orchestra. Among the chamber works the 20 string quartets take up a central position. Also important are also the great number of works written by Holmboe for mixed chorus a cappella. These include the beautiful series Liber Canticorum.



2nd February 2025

Musicians from The Royal Danish Orchestra
The Opera House, Copenhagen, Denmark