> Rued Langgaard - Violin Sonatas Vol. 1 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Violin Sonatas - Vol. 1

Violin Sonata No. 1 Viole BVN94 (1915 rev 1945) [38.43]
Violin Sonata No. 2 Den store Mester kommer BVN167 (1920-21) [26.16]
Serguei Azizian (violin)
Anne Øland (piano)
rec Mantziusgården, Denmark, Oct, Dec 1999 DDD
in cooperation with Royal Danish Academy of Music
DACAPO 8.224153 [65.04]


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Langgaard ploughed a saturated late-romantic furrow with excursions into eclecticism. Around him most of the world turned its back on him. Celebrity in the 1900s and early 1910s turned to ashes as the Great War wrought changes that left the late-romantics largely marginalised by the New Objectivity or the New Frivolity in music. People such as Bantock and Holbrooke were hit hard and Langgaard shares their fate. Ironically Frank Bridge, whose music turned towards the second Viennese school, suffered because he was no longer writing in his voluptuous pre-war idiom.

Langgaard’s First Sonata is the product of four intensive days of composition at a sanatorium in Scania. This work virtually defines the stormy triumphant romanticism of youth. It is a work of lightning-strike violence raptly caught up in the legacies of Grieg and Brahms. The lanky first and final movements veer into repetition or doldrums once or twice but such is the tidal rip and surge of this glorious cataract you can forgive Langgaard such small over-indulgences. The work is played with concerto-spirit and the sound is to match: highly coloured and close. Think in terms of the Grieg Piano Concerto, the Brahms Second, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and, if you know it, the flood of romantic melos in John Foulds' Cello Sonata. It may be an apprentice piece but its manner is all power and confidence; light on gentler emotions but overpowering and here it is given the performance of a lifetime by Azizian (who has recorded the Walton concerto for ClassicO) and Øland. A concerto manqué if ever I heard one.

The single movement Second Sonata is spare by comparison, strange and challenging, built around a hymn-like tune. The tonality drifts pleasantly but drifts nonetheless. Oh there are touches of the old Brahmsian manner but other impressionistic and dissonant fires play through and over this music. This belongs to the same period as Langgaard's Music of the Abyss (solo piano) and his opera Antikrist. Violin turns as at 3.38 in track 5 remind us of Nielsen and similarly at 1.20 in track 8. As we progress through this work we cannot escape 'druidic' phrases such as the piano figuration at 1.34 - which might almost have escaped from Bax's Winter Legends or Ireland's Legend. Premier Langgaard authority Bendt Viinholt Nielsen draws some provocative parallels with the music of Ives and Schnittke. Access to this work is eased by having five tracks.

The two artists here struck me as utterly committed and highly sympathetic to Langgaard's idiosyncratic muse. If you enjoy the driftways between melody and dissonance then do not miss this first salvo in a new Dacapo series.

Rob Barnett

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