Langgaard wrote eight string quartets during the period 1914-1925
(between the composer's twenty-first and thirty-third years). Four date
from 1918. He revised all the quartets except No. 3. All the quartets
are here, with two exceptions. No. 1, the materials for which were recycled
into Numbers 4 and 5, is omitted; also omitted is an unnumbered quartet
This set was originally issued on LP by RCA and promptly
disappeared from view as was the fate of several recordings issued on
the obsolescent carrier in its last gasp years.
The Second Quartet is in four movements each
with a title: Storm Clouds Receding; Train Passing By
(unmistakable); Landscape in Twilight and The Walk. Perhaps
he would have been better advised to avoid such titles; they tempt facile
pictorialism. The quartet is vivid, brimming with life and originality
from the sort of vigour you find in Nielsen's Four Temperaments to
the expressionism of Zemlinsky. The Sixth Quartet is a tamer
affair, not short on rustic sentimentality, rather Haydnesque, a divertissement
nostalgic for village dances and an immersion in nostalgia. The 1924
Quartet (No. 3) originally bore the title Inferna. This
is much the toughest of the works here and the tempo markings give clues
as to the mood: snervatezza (enervating), quasi stracciamento
(torn to pieces), rapinoso (raucously). Prokofiev and Bartók
are the waymarkers for much of the time especially in the first movement.
The crystal-small second movement refers back to the classically poised
minuets of Mozart but fuses this mood with the malicious and the macabre.
The Fifth Quartet is in four movements. Once
again the work had titles (Far Away Tunes; Moods of Oblivion)
at several stages in its life. These were discarded by the composer.
The first title gives a better idea of what to expect. This is Langgaard
on a contented sabbatical around the quartets of Mozart and Schubert
- basking in the classical sunshine. The poignant and heart-warming
Fourth has similar preoccupations leavened by rustic voices already
encountered in the Sixth Quartet. The Variations on O Sacred Head!
Now wounded lasts about a quarter of an hour with the seven
variations written in 1914 and the Introduction being from 1931,
a year in which Langgaard was busy revising his string quartets. The
whole work is classically shaped and inclined.
Well written and planned notes are included. These
are by Knud Ketting and Langgaard world authority, Bendt Viinholt Nielsen.
I have plagiarised these for the current review.
The two CDs are presented in a mono-width case.
It is typical of the unselfishness of many of the Scandinavian
companies that the rear insert lists Langgaard discs from other companies:
Chandos and Danish EMI. Can anyone provide me with a copy of EMI's CD
recording (749 6642) of Langgaard's Antikrist and Sixth Symphony
performed by the Copenhagen Philharmonic with Ole Schmidt?
This is Langgaard predominantly in the persona of the
defiant classicist in which shape you might never guess that these works
post-dated the Great War. He shatters the peace in the second and third