Langgaard, mad or eccentric, suffered the Nielsen
eclipse and resented it. It did not however stem his profusely
creative talent. There are sixteen symphonies (1908-1951)
and a great deal else including the opera Antikrist.
Dacapo have been recording a complete cycle of the symphonies
which although with different couplings rivals the complete
cycle from Ilya Stupel on Danacord. It differs from it in
that all the Dausgaard cycle is based on the new corrected
edition of the symphonies issued by Edition Samfundet – Rued
Langgaard Udgaven. This latest issue is on SACD although I
reviewed it in standard CD mode.
Symphony is in a continuous span of only seven minutes
with episodes marked in the score as follows: Furiously!
- Distinguished! - Increasingly agitated - Wildly - Like trivial
last trumps! - Hectically nervous! - Andante lento - Lento
misterioso - Poco allegro marcato - Allegro - Furiously! -
Amok! A composer explodes. Bendt Viinholt Nielsen has
been Langgaard’s champion in much the same way that Lewis
Foreman has championed Bax. He provides the customarily excellent
liner-notes and tells us that this symphony is a reinterpretation
of the epic First Symphony premiered in Berlin in 1909. The
music has its roots resolutely stuck deep in the nineteenth
century (Schumann and Tchaikovsky) but exuberant infusions
from Richard Strauss.
The opening and
closing figure of the seven movement Thirteenth Symphony is
shared with Langgaard’s Seventh. The language is much as its predecessor
but I also detect some Brahms in the mix as well as some Beethovenian
bluster. The music shivers with vitality. Langgaard’s accommodating
way with including light music inspiration in his symphonies puts
in an appearance in the sixth movement, marked Elegant.
The finale even sports a Nielsen-like skirl, lighter inspirations,
brass ‘over-emphasis’, Schumann scherzo and melodic material and
concert piano used to the point of vulgarity to adumbrate rhythm.
Symphony opens with a massively exultant Introductory fanfare
for chorus and full orchestra. Its tone is part Beethoven’s Choral
Symphony and part Verdi Requiem. It’s a glorious din
evocative or invocatory of the Second Coming of Christ. The other
movements of Morgenen are: II Unnoticed morning stars (serene
and gleaming strings) ; III The Marble Church rings (rapturous
and glowing writing with a decidedly Schumann-like character;
rather like the later movements); IV The tired get up for life;
V Radio-Caruso and forced energy; VI ‘Dads’ rush to the office
(nothing pell-mell – more a leisurely Mendelssohnian procession
made original by the repeated spinning ostinato on the violins
at 1:12); VII Sun and beech forest. That finale sees the return
of the chorus but the music is now more leisurely. The exaltation
and exultation of the first movement has faded into a soothing
sunset – without exertion but bathed in sentimental light.
There’s no denying that Langgaard wrote in a completely
incongruous idiom. The evidence is everywhere. That hardly
matters and will matter even less as the decades pass. What
does matter is that he writes fascinating and vulnerable music
that still has the capacity to surprise and enchant. Thanks
to everyone involved in the making of this disc that Langgaard
can still speak affectingly to today’s audiences.
also reviews of earlier instalments in the Dacapo cycle: