> Langgaard Symphonies 9-11[RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Symphony No. 9 From Queen Dagmar's City BVN 282 (1942) [21.22]
Symphony No. 10 Yon Hall of Thunder BVN 298 (1944-45) [25.53]
Symphony No. 11 Ixion BVN 303 (1944-45) [6.20]
Danish National RSO/Thomas Dausgaard
rec 7-8 Apr 1999; 12-13 Jan 2001; 23 June 1999, Danish Radio House. DDD
DACAPO 8.224182 [53.37]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

These symphonies just do not sound as if they were written in the 1940s; at least not going by the received stylistic orthodoxy. Then again Langgaard was never one for contemporary fashion. He found his own bipartite style and used it thoroughly. The first of the two style components is a euphoric reflection of Schumann's orchestral music - a nostalgic embrace with high romance also beloved of Lange-Muller and J.P.E. Hartmann. The second part is equally out of kilter with the argot of the times and can be heard in such works as the Insectarium, the Sinfonia Interna, the opera-cantata Antikrist and the choral orchestral Music of the Spheres - all works from the period 1915-1923. In this way Langgaard looks back nobly unconcerned by criticism of pastiche anachronism on one hand and of alien avant-garde-ism on the other.

Nazi-occupied Denmark saw the writing of these three symphonies. The Ninth is an example of his high-tilt romanticism tapping directly into the style of Robert Schumann's Spring and Rhenish symphonies. The only jolt comes with the Ribe Cathedral movement where bells follow the melodic line established by the slow wash and surge of the strings. A similar shock attends the piano role among doom and storm-clouds towards the end of number 10. Did Langgaard recall Schumann's Cathedral movement from the Rhenish symphony? The movements are: Queen Dagmar sails to Ribe; The Dance at Riberhus; Ribe Cathedral; The turbulent life of the past.

The Tenth Symphony was my second experience of Langgaard which I recall playing back on an old Philips reel-to-reel tape recorder. This is a single movement work full of pugnacious and unbridled fantasy. Listen to the vol-planing of the heaven-scouring strings which begins within minutes of that exciting surging opening. This is much closer to the zest and rush of Elgar's In the South and Second Symphony. There are even insurgent elements from Tchaikovsky (much more apparent in Louis Glass's Fifth Symphony than here), Mendelssohn, Liszt and even Miaskovsky (17.10). However it is the super-charged Schumannic stream that predominates alongside far from inconsequential Straussian hallmarks such as the rollingly rapturous horns, Mephisto allusions and Asgard-like episodes (18.12, 22.40). The notes, by world Langgaard authority (and his cataloguer), Bendt Viinholt Nielsen, remind us that the work was premiered by Launy Grøndahl in 1947 (who stood the same service for the Ninth in 1943). The present recording uses a new critically revised edition of the score.

The Eleventh is a symphony of a similar brevity to Havergal Brian's Twenty Second Sinfonia Brevis. Whereas the Brian is full of variety and 'travel', Langgaard's is iterative. The volcanic-romantic, gestural, cycling, raucous minimalism of the piece expresses itself in the language of Bruckner and Wagner. Four tubas placed at the front of the orchestra enter towards the end of the piece. This is the same Langgaard who wrote a piece in which Carl Nielsen's name is called out repeatedly. There is something Satie-esque about this.

By the way Ixion is the hapless mortal who, having offending the Gods, found himself bound to a flaming wheel rotating for eternity. Yon Hall of Thunder is the name given to a rocky peninsula at Kullen in Denmark where Langgaard spent twenty-six happy summers.

Rob Barnett


Dausgaard/Danish NRSO
Symphonies 4-5 8.224215
Symphonies 6-8 8.224180
Symphonies 9-11 8.224182

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.