Rued 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
Tirol SO/Niels Muus
rec at premiere stage performance, 2 May 1999, Großen Haus, Innsbruck,
DANACORD DACOCD 517
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
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
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
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
A REPLY FROM JESPER
BUHL, PROPRIETOR OF DANACORD
Thank you very much for your long and interesting review of the Langgaard
Let me tell you shortly why the CDs are divided in the way that they
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