The Langgaard discography has expanded by leaps and bounds since the early
1990s. While there were isolated LPs during the period 1960-83 Langgaard's
fame during that period was being reconstructed by enthusiasts on the air-check
circuit and by one or two semi-commercial off-air tape businesses. The 'currency'
was unwittingly provided by one of the most enlightened broadcasting
organisations on the planet, Danish National Radio, who doggedly revived
and broadcast all of the Langgaard symphonies and much else.
Langgaard, the dissident, collageist, chaotic romantic came into his own
alongside 'marginals' like Sorabji, Ives, Hovhaness, Pettersson. The doors
were at last opening to a flood-tide of romantic refugees.
The history of Sinfonia Interna is complicated but can be summarised
as follows. Sinfonia Interna was originally to have been Langgaard's
Fourth Symphony. It is not to be confused with the Løvfald
Symphony - the authorised number 4. It was completed in 1915-16 as a
large scale 'stage symphony' in five sections uniting text, music and stage
elements. Its grand scheme was Scriabinesque - designed under the influence
of Theosophy to produce a transcendental, religious, mystical effect. It
was discarded when a performance could not be secured. Its material resurfaced
in other free-standing works. In the 1940s the composer considered reconstructing
the sinfonia in a shortened form but without stage elements. This disc is
an attempt to fulfil that proposal from original material all brought together
by the world authority on Langgaard Bendt Viinholt Nielsen with reconstruction
work done by Mike Cholewa.
The work has the 'feel' of Pfitzner's Von Deutsches Seele or Schumann's
Faust, Rosepilgerfahrt or Genoveva graphic cantatas.
To this pictorial balladic character you find music with much in common with
the more earnest string music of Sibelius (think of Pelleas et Melisande
and Valse Triste). Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and the soft-focus
romantic vocal music of Niels Gade are also presences. The choral writing
from Brahms' German Requiem is another benchmark reference. Though
Langgaard may have execrated the comparison you can also note similarities
with Nielsen's Springtime in Fynen and his folksy song settings.
The writing is luminous, never congested - a naturally legato, usually slow,
following the undulations of some serenely beautiful inner landscape. The
music also prompts memories of Delius's Village Romeo and Juliet -
Act I. There are some operatic incursions to provide variety although I found
that these segments did not fully convince. In the final Epilog you
can hear the linkages between Delius (say Summer Night on the River)
and the Danish musical heritage.
This is, quite simply, a glorious work, gloriously performed and resplendently
recorded. A success on every count. Now how about, for just this once, shelving
Elgar's Sea Pictures or Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder or Strauss's
Four Last Songs and giving this Langgaard work a chance?