Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Symphony No. 6 Det Himmelrivende (1920 rev 1930)
Symphony No. 7 (1926 version)
Symphony No. 8 Minder ved Amalienborg (1928 rev 1934)

Danish National RSO/Thomas Dausgaard
rec Aug 1998-Aug 2000, Danish Radio House. DDD
DACAPO 8.224180 [56.58]
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Yes, that's right. Three symphonies in just less than 57 minutes. Such is the product of that wayward and never boring eccentric, Rued Langgaard.

The Sixth Symphony represents a combination of the type of Franckian luxuriance to be found in Psyché, a peaceable Finzian 'kingdom' as in the Thema Version 1, the orientally challenging Turandot and the swerving unpredictability of a Tippett-like fugue (Variation II). It is no wonder that Calum Macdonald in his still extremely readable book 'Opus Est' (Kahn & Averill, 1979) placed him alongside such 'outsiders' as Havergal Brian whose own 20 minute symphonies have something of the same feeling though denser in expression. Nielsen's influence can be discerned in the Sonata movement. The Danish title is variously translated as 'Heavens Asunder' and 'The Heaven Storming'.

The Sixth Symphony plays for 21.41 in this version as against Frandsen's 20.51 (Danacord DACOCD 560), Stupel's 20.54 (Danacord DACOCD 406) and Järvi's 20.12 (Chandos CHAN 9064).

Järvi is fleeter and does not have the poise of the Dausgaard. The Nielsen echoes seem even more substantial in Järvi's hands. The sound on the Chandos is a shade superior though there is little between the four versions so far as audio quality is concerned. Stupel's recording bands the symphony in one segment as does Danacord's ADD Frandsen from 1977. Little to choose between them really if you can live with the light speckle of coughs from the Danish audience in the Frandsen specifically in the great Thema I.

The Seventh has the air of a Beethoven symphony (perhaps No. 4) cross-bred with Nielsen's First Symphony, Mendelssohn's Ruy Blas, Schumann's Rhenish and Mozart's Prague Symphony. That should have you scratching your head! The only comparison is not a direct one and that is with its own later version as rather beautifully recorded by Ilya Stupel for Danacord (DACOCD 407) in Lodz in 1991. The brass of the Artur Rubinstein Philharmonic sound rather hesitant by comparison with Dausggaard's orchestra. Stupel takes the score at a dancing lick. The Symphony is only 16.25 (18.19 in the 1932 Stupel version) and is far less controversial and 'modern' than its predecessor from 1920 - at least until we get to the macabre play of the Scherzoso.

Symphony No. 8 (Memories at Amalienborg) is another compact piece - playing for 18.48 under Dausggaard and 16.42 under Stupel (DACOCD 409). The piano plays a prominent concertante part in the first movement but this is no piano concerto. Beethoven and Schumann had clearly imprinted themselves on Langgaard's creative 'forge' by the time he came to write and revise this symphony. As the Danacord notes comment, the symphony is problematic and fewer eyebrows would have been raised if he had hedged his bets and termed it a 'suite' as he did with the Fourteenth Symphony Morning. Call it what you will, this is pleasant stuff. Symphonic fibre? Not really .. and that Finale is quite repetitive.

There is no direct competition for this disc - no identical coupling and the Seventh Symphony is recorded in a version never previously committed to commercial disc.

Langgaard collectors must have this for the premiere recording of the original version of the Seventh Symphony. Overall this collection satisfies for an extremely fine version of the Sixth Symphony - the best so far. However for a Langgaard neophyte there is no better introduction that Danacord's 2CD reissue (Danacord DACOCD 560) of symphonies 4, 6, 14 and 15 with his masterpiece Sfaerernes Music.

If the delightful Blake-ian watercolour(?) by J F Willumsen 'Sol over sydens Bjerge' (1902) is anything to go by the world has just as much to learn about Danish pictorial art as it has about Danish music. The picture is suggestive of Det Himmelrivende.

Rob Barnett

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