Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
CD1 [78.17]
Symphony No. 14 Suite: Morgenen (1947-51) [29.20]
Symphony No. 4 Løvfald (Leaf-Fall) (1916) [27.45]
Symphony No. 6 Det Himmelrivende (The Heaven-storming) (1919-30) [20.51]
CD2 [66.13]
Symphony No. 10 Hin Tordenbolig (Yon Dwelling of Thunder) (1944-45) [30.56]
Sfærernes Musik (Music of the Spheres) (1918) [34.32]
Edith Guillaume (sop) (Sfærernes)
Danish National Radio SO and Choir
cond; Michael Schønwandt (14), John Frandsen (4, 6, Sfærernes), Ole Schmidt (10)
ADD rec 4 (live 2 Apr 1981, first release EMI LP 6C 063-38100); 6 (live 9 Dec 1977, first release EMI LP 6C 063-38100); Sfærernes (live, 20 Mar 1980); 10 (live, 28 Aug 1977, Tivoli); 14 (studio, May 1979); 6 and Sfærernes first release on LP as DACO206 DMA064; 10 and 14 first release on LP as DACO 230.
DANACORD DACOCD 560  2 CD [CD1 78.17+ CD2 66.13]

Langgaard wrote sixteen symphonies. Knud Ketting's reminder that the bulk of Langgaard's compositional activity came in two sustained productive bursts: 1917-23 (symphonies 1-6 and Antikrist) and 1940-49 (symphonies 9-16) is helpful.

Danacord (the expansive homeland of Langgaard's music) was first on the scene with the 1960s and 1970s revival of the composer's heritage. The dates listed above tell it all. The company have now harvested together all their original tapes in ADD format and issued them in a slim single width double CD case in a design that sits well alongside your Da Capo CDs. The documentation is of superior quality both at musical and discographical levels. This represents excellent value for money as well. Previously these recordings were spread across three CDs: DACOCD 302 and DACOCD340-341, the latter extravagantly sprawling across a double width box (the sort that has now been adapted to handle up to eight CDs!) with two CDs and with that revolutionary masterwork, Sfærernes Musik allocated to a single CD.

Langgaard was much caught up in the visions of Apocalypse. He saw the turning of the seasons as a symbol of the world's end: Det Himmelrivende as a vision of Christ's angels storming the armies of Evil and driving them from the firmament. A pantheistic elation mixed with the Theosophy of Cyril Scott and Scriabin and elements of Delius's Mass of Life and Requiem rages through the pages of Sfærernes Musik and above all the cold inhumanity of the stars gazes down. Symphonies 4, 6 and Sfærernes Musik belong to the period from the centrepoint of the Great War to two years after its finish.

The earliest work is the Fourth Symphony. Like all the symphonies, from the second onwards, this is in one movement. The super-charged, restless, aspiring and yearning opulence of it all partakes of Wagner, Schumann and Strauss. There, is in addition, a demonic element (something akin to the Liszt Faust Symphony) factored in. Great rippling rushes of sound at 10.50 and strange almost oriental vistas (15.43) suggestive of William Beckford's Vathek and of the enigmatic later symphonies of Havergal Brian pepper this great score. The uproarious triumphs of Mahler's First Symphony rub shoulders with a chaos of bells at 25.13 and all resolved in a final tragic coup. While Langgaard certainly execrated Nielsen he was by no means immune to ideas which streamed out from his great contemporary. There is an unmistakable infusion of Nielsen's idyllic pastoral magic (11.27) coupled with the basking warmth of Louis Glass's Fifth Symphony.

The 'Heaven-storming' symphony was begun after Sfærernes Musik. It is Nielsen Helios overture that first is suggested by the passage from the start to 2.30. The elated trumpet-lofted glories of this score (5.23) are directly comparable with the pastoral ascents of Joly Braga-Santos's Symphony No. 4. Langgaard however allows himself a very high level of chaotic dissonance (e.g. at 10.03). You may catch yourself thinking of Percy Grainger's The Warriors at some points in this score and at others of Holst's Hymn of Jesus.

Sfærernes Musik is a magical score of miraculous effect and quite revolutionary in its anticipation of so much of the avant-garde twentieth century apparatus. Listen to the closing five minutes and be convinced. Hear also the super-tensile high rippling violins taking us towards Messiaenic birdsong (chirping ecstatically), Varèse, Ligeti and Hovhaness (St Vartan and Fra Angelico). The panic of Holst's Saturnine bells of death is well caught in the Kyrie Eleison - the entry of the choirs at 13.43. After two performances (Karlsruhe, 1918 and Berlin, 1919) this work plunged into dust until restored and lifted phoenix-like in 1968.

It is easy to forget that Lovfald was written when the composer was only 23 and Himmelrivende when he was 27.

Of the 'competition'? Chandos couple symphonies 4, 5 and 6 while Danacord group 4 and 6 with Interdikt and Heltedød on DACOCD 406. Chandos also compete in Sfærernes Musik. Of course the Chandos and the other Danacord preserve you from audience 'contributions'. These recordings are special. They are documents of discovery and have the vividness that comes from the artists' own revelatory experiences as they became familiar with these remarkable and blessedly other-worldly works.

The Tenth Symphony revels in the exuberance of Strauss's Don Juan though with more stürm and drang. There are no less than 3 piccolos and five clarinets in the orchestra. The plunge and surge is of this score clearly appeals to Schmidt whose verve carries all before it. Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Bruckner are influences. There is a special rhythmic sharpness and life to this score as well as a sense of wonder and concentration. The death march at the close has each tolling step topped off by the piano.

In six titled movements the Morgenen symphony blazes along in an eruption of sound like Bruckner's Helgoland and Mahler's Eighth. Mountainous waves of sound and a starry Siegfried Idyll metamorphose into a Mahlerian Adagietto. Brahms, Elgar and Schumann are your reference points for the rest of this work.

In all this attention do not overlook the complete series of Langgaard symphonies recorded on Danacord by Ilya Stupel and the Anton Rubinstein SO. You will kick yourself if ever it is deleted and you haven't invested in that series.

Inevitably these are analogue recordings (... and live in some cases - witness the coughs and rustling). There is little sign however of hiss and the sound quality is typical of superior Scandinavian pre-digital standards.

This is a deeply attractive way of delving into Langgaard. The one set to have if you must limit yourself in that way. My suspicion is that once you have heard this you will want the rest.

Rob Barnett

If in difficulty by all means contact the UK distributors:

Discovery Records Ltd
phone 01672 563931
fax 01672 563934

or Danacord via their website at

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