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Finney, Ian James

The String Quartets of Vagn Holmboe

Ph.D. Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, 1988

The introduction gives a global view of the Holmboe quartet cycle and hints at its place in twentieth-century music history.

A brief survey is then made of the unpublished quartets (1926-44) written before the recognized First Quartet. Quotations are made from the manuscripts of these works; there is a discussion of the formative influences on Holmboe through this period, especially from Stravinsky, Bartók and Nielsen.

Subsequent chapters divide the published quartet cycle into seven chronological groups. Each of Quartets nos. 1-16 is analyzed in some detail; the discussion of no. 1 and nos. 3-12 also includes reference to and quotation of sketches and other manuscript material in the Royal Library, Copenhagen. Most of these chapters have a preliminary discussion on some issue relevant to the period, and which refers to works in other genres: technical issues discussed include the concept of metamorphosis, the motivic motto, serialism and Holmboe's "late style". Analysis changes its slant as Holmboe's style changes - analysis of the early quartets is tonal and motivic; that of the middle quartets is motivic tending towards pitch-class set analysis; that of the later quartets returns to large-scale tonal functioning.

The last chapter gives a brief survey of Quartets nos. 17-20, and ends with a comparison between the quartet cycles of Holmboe and Shostakovich.