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.