> Rued Langgaard - Symphony No. 4 & 5 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Symphony No. 4 Løvfald BVN 124 (1916, rev 1920) [23.38]
Symphony No. 5 BVN 191 (1917-18, rev 1926) [14.22]
Symphony No. 5 Steppenatur (Sommersagnsdrama) BVN 216 (1917-18, rev 1920/1931) [19.13]
Danish National RSO/Thomas Dausgaard
rec 21-22 Aug 2001 (4); 23 Aug 2001 (5 I), 17, 21 June 1999 (5 II) Danish Radio House. DDD
DACAPO 8.224215 [57.17]


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This bids fair to be THE cycle for Langgaard enthusiasts. Dausgaard and Dacapo have set out to provide a definitive edition. It could easily have been a dull academic affair but not with Dausgaard at the helm. We must look to Dausgaard as a beaming bright prospect in the international orchestral stakes.

The Fourth Symphony was the first to put Langgaard on anyone's map. There was a DMA and then EMI LP of the symphony, coupled, I seem to recall, with some Lange-Muller. This came out in 1973. It was the first Langgaard I had heard. That version (was it John Frandsen?) did not impress me greatly. It was only when a friend lent me some reel-to-reel tapes of the mid-period symphonies (10-11) that I began to take to Langgaard with his Schumann-like voluptuously ecstatic cresting sunrises. Dausgaard gives this work, which ranges over an autumn landscape, a world-beating performance full of gusty downpours, thunderstorms, sunlight and repose. The bell-evocation in section 12 is strikingly cold and gaunt - looking forward to Britten's Grimes. It is staggering to think that this piece was written during the Great War by a composer still only 23.

Then come two versions of the Fifth Symphony. In fact four exist. The original was an orchestral fantasia entitled Summer Legend Drama then came another version with much new material. This was entitled Symphonic Festival Play.

The two works recorded here are of the later two versions in which the music emerged as a symphony. The first version of Symphony No. 5 is based on Summer Legend Drama. That version receives its world premiere recording here. Once again nature is the stepping off point. Language partly shaped by Schumann and partly by Wagner makes for a powerful work. There is even a strong suggestion of Elgar from time to time. Dausgaard keeps things buzzing along and is forever goading and pushing forward. He would make a revelatory Bax conductor. Listen to the solo violin writhing and threading through the soft wailing of the orchestra. This is utterly original music punctuated with shudders from Tapiola and from the upheavals of Nielsen's Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. Quite apart from its originality the musical and emotional effect of this music is remarkable.

The second version is entitled Steppenatur and it is this version that you are most likely to have encountered before. This is very different and I think far less effective than the first version. The principal weakness is the unrounded and unconvincing ending. Great Bachian fugal patterns stride through the work with Beethovenian stompings soon to be transfigured in the Third Symphony of Nielsen. Other elements include Sibelian chatter, Griegian regret, Mahlerian ländler (III) and pastoral summer serenading of the type familiar from Nielsen's Springtime on Fyn.

Superficially this is old-fashioned sounding music but then so is George Lloyd. Langgaard's triumph is not just that he takes these sounds and makes of them something highly individual but also that he has fresh things to do and say in this language.

The notes are by the world authority on Langgaard, his biographer and cataloguer, Bendt Viinholdt Nielsen. You could not ask for better annotation and it is a great bonus that Nielsen is not one of those writers who taxes you with acres of musico-technical description. His descriptions are always accessible and to the point.

Do try to hear this disc. If you want to sample then audition tracks 1 and 17.


Rob Barnett


Dausgaard/Danish NRSO

Symphonies 6-8 8.224180

Symphonies 9-11 8.224182

see also Sinfonia Interna Aarhus SO/Frans Rasmussen 8.224136

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