Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Antichrist - Church opera in six scenes (1923-30)
Joachim Seipp (bar) - Lucifer; Hate
Kathryn Jayne Carpenter (sop) - Spirit of Mystery; Mystical Voice
Marie-Claude Chappuis (mezzo) - Echo of Spirit of Mystery
Heinrich Wolf (ten) - The mouth speaking great things
Foula Dimitriadis (mezzo) - The Great Whore
John Mac Master (ten) - The Scarlet Beast; The Lie
Ansgar Schaefer (sop) - The Voice of God
Chor des Tiroler Landestheater
Tirol SO/Niels Muus
rec at premiere stage performance, 2 May 1999, Großen Haus, Innsbruck, Austria
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Dubbed an 'ecstatic outsider' by Swedish musicologist Bo Wallner, Langgaard continues to fascinate. Wallner's words, written in 1968, coincided with the first performance in 'modern times' (how those words ring incongruously now!) of Sfærernes Musik (1916-18). The liner notes for this set comment on Langgaard's early music being forward-looking with many modern effects in the romantic fabric while the later works are recidivistically steeped in the romanticism of Schumann and Gade.

Langgaard's fascination with the Biblical Apocalypse was his equivalent of Berlioz's 'idée fixe'. The opera warns against selfishness and the emptying of spiritual content from human life. The initiating spark seems to have been P E Benzon's dramatic poem 'Antikrist' (1907). As in many ripped and crippled European cultures a new spirituality arose around the red bow-wave of the Great War. Mediums offered solace in the cherished illusion of contact with the dead. John Foulds' World Requiem held the stage for many years with its message of comfort and reunion. Cyril Scott's mysticism enjoyed new musical life. Arthur Bliss's Morning Heroes grappled with tragedy, disillusion and heroism. Langgaard stood further back from these direct references and delved allegorically into the spiritual. Antikrist, by the way is the same figure as Apollyon with whom Pilgrim struggled in Vaughan Williams' Pilgrim's Progress.

Antikrist divides or at least stands close to the divide between the amenable modernism of Sfærernes Musik and the Schumann throwback style of the 1930s onwards. These are simplifications but the trend towards what sometimes almost sounds like pastiche in the later years is clear to hear.

The architectural structure of the Langgaard work is as follows:-



Scene 1: The Light of the Wilderness

Scene 2: Vainglory

Scene 3: Despair

Scene 4: Lust

Scene 5: Every man's strife with every man

Scene 6: Perdition (crematio)

The Prelude can be likened to the Barber Adagio or the less chromium glamour of Josef Suk's all too little known St Wenceslas Meditation. It is devout, reflective, pregnant. It rustles quietly - full of tension. In the Prologue a ringing helden voice recalls the St John line in Franz Schmidt's later apocalypse-based work The Book with Seven Seals. The First scene is memorable for an ecstatic flood of soprano singing while the Second for its disturbing rippling figure for the high violins. The Third has a hysterical soprano singing with all the heavyweight Wagnerian apparatus in place. The Fourth shimmers ecstatically and its composure is shaken by strange cries from woodwind, violins and solo violin. The vocal writing throughout is more operatic than oratorio with its cross-references linking to the supercharged lyricism (some would say excess) of Schreker's Die Ferne Klang, Schoeck's Massimila Doni and Korngold's Violanta. Sample 6.58 on track 7 for its ecstatic creamy heroism and the ringing high notes at 10.48. Langgaard's ideas and orchestration are grandiloquent in ways that link also to Delius's Mass of Life and Village Romeo and Juliet and Strauss's Alpensinfonie. Scene 5 has a higher incidence of dissonance in the orchestral introduction and a smattering of Nielsen-like figurations (4.40) skitter across the soundscape. The Scene has its longueurs but one can forgive such nodding moments for the stressed, pecking strings and swooping angst. Pace the liner notes but the music has more of Elektra about it than of Salome - try the hysterical excesses of 0703 (track 1 CD2). In the Perdition scene the high drizzle of sound for the 'star-falling time' is truly magical. I think of the exhausted unhandselled falling away after the great climax in Bax's Sixth Symphony.

Despite Langgaard's best efforts the opera was never performed complete in his lifetime. Danmarks Radio in 1940 gave scenes 5 and 6 and a concert finale. A studio version of the opera was broadcast complete in 1980 conducted by Michael Schønwandt. It was in that version that I first heard it. I discover now that in 1986 it was given two concert performances by the Copenhagen PO conducted by Ole Schmidt. A studio recording was made and issued on LP and CD. I have never heard this version. In any event it seems no longer to be available.

This is the first widely accessible recording of Langgaard's opera and certainly the only one that is currently available.

Muus seems confident and his singers are well chosen, caring and engaged by the music. Muus here continues his work of promoting Danish opera in Austria, a mission already recognised by the Danish government.

This is a recording of the premiere of the first staged performance of the opera complete with applause at the end. You should not expect studio-edit perfection. There are a few fluffs and some roughness. The string band, while rich enough in tone, is not ideally opulent or supple enough for this music. Stage movement sounds are present but are no problem.

Antikrist is an awkward length (87.12) for CD. The end result in Danacord's case is two CDs: CD1 67.22; CD2 18.05. It seems a shame that scene 5 was split across the two discs although the break is a natural one. The whole of scene 5 runs for 20.27 so if all of it had been inscribed on CD2 then CD1 would have been 58.01 while CD2 would have been 27.28.(see note below)

The notes are as good as they can get. This is the best introduction I have encountered to the life and music. The author is Langgaard biographer and cataloguer, Bendt Viinholt Nielsen. The booklet gives the libretto in German and English but regrettably these are not presented side by side so you cannot simultaneously follow the sung word with the English translation. Danacord merit our praise for using the single width case.

If only British music had a champion of Jesper Buhl's standing. We must now invest hope in Buhl being able to record Holmboe's Faust Requiem and Haakon Børresen's Inuit-themed opera Kaddara (1914-17) which if Ujarak's Farewell recorded by Lauritz Melchior is anything to go by will be something very special indeed as most certainly is Antikrist - yet another surprising, sublime and challenging work by Langgaard.

Rob Barnett

If in difficulty by all means contact the UK distributors:
Discovery Records Ltd
phone +44 (0)1672 563931

fax +44 (0) 1672 563934
or Danacord via their website at


Thank you very much for your long and interesting review of the Langgaard opera AntiChrist.

Let me tell you shortly why the CDs are divided in the way that they are.

As you can see 87.12 cannot go on one CD. It must be spread over two discs. The only natural way would be to have had a natural break after scene 4. That was what we wanted, but it was was too expensive(!). Langgaard is a protected composer and you have to pay for the right to use his music (as you do for all composers who are dead before 70 years ago). If we released the opera on two CDs each with full royalty we could not have sold the set for the price of 1. We found out that if you release a CD with less than 20 minutes you pay royalty as if the CD was a single-pop CD. So CD 2 could only have a maximum of 20 minutes and we would only have to pay 25% of the royalty. We tried to explain to the copyright owners that we wanted to split the opera after scene 4 and then only pay as if it was a single-pop CD but they refused to grant us this permission, so we had to limit the CD 2 to a maximum of 20 minutes.

So that is why the opera is split in this rather stupid way. If people wanted a more natural split (say after scene 4) it would not have been possible for us to sell two CDs for the price of one.

All the best regards

Jesper Buhl

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