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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Aubade (Morgenständchen) BVN 23 (1907)
Sonata No. 3 BVN 312 (1945-49)
Short Violin Sonata BVN 372 (1949)
Sonata No. 4 Parce Nobis, Jesu! BVN 376 (1949)
Écrasez l’infâme BVN 385 (1949)
Andante Religioso BVN 407 (1950)
Serguei Azizian (violin)
Anne Øland (piano)
Recorded at Lyngby Parkkapel, September 2001 and Danmarks Radio, Studio 2, September 2002
Violin Sonatas Volume 2
DA CAPO 8.226006 [66.05]


The first volume of Danacord’s Langgaard Violin Sonatas series, reviewed here by me, showed some signs of the stylistic idiosyncrasies by which he has come to be known; by the second volume they are in full flower. That said we begin with the very early 1907 Aubade, written when he was 14 and dedicated to his uncle, Axel Gade; it is a charming, wispy piece. There was a long gap between the Second Sonata, recorded on the first volume, and the Third of 1945-49. It was because of his friendship with violinist Haakon Raskmark that the last works for that instrument came into being. The Third is a five-movement work, which seems to mimic the externalities of a suite but evinces the (incomplete) rhetoric of a late Romantic sonata. Thus though we have a language that is essentially Brahmsian in its cast there are bits missing – lack of development sections and a rather strange absence of academic form. The unconventionality of the structure gives rise to tensions between the music’s skeleton and its outward dress. The Espressivo fourth-movement is clean-limbed and attractive in an uncomplicated sort of a way but the very Brahmsian finale – albeit a modified Romanticism – does give rise to awkward doubts as to the suitability of the whole, very personalised schema.

Following the rather diffuse reinterpretation of a Romantic sonata Langgaard then gives us his appropriately named Short Violin Sonata. This lasts all of three and a half minutes and falls into four clearly defined movements conforming to the basic Allegro-Adagio-Scherzo-Finale type. This eccentric example of stretto compression (complete with repeats!) is perhaps the apex of Langgaard’s violinistic experimentation with conventional arguments placed in absurdist circumstances.

Sonata No 4 Parce Nobis, Jesu! is once again in five movements and opens with Bachian chorale-like intensity. Here Langgaard throws in a disruptive piano part, constantly threatening to subvert the melodic line. When at last the violin reasserts some measure of direction the piano grudgingly offers a modicum of variably tactful support. Some formidable intensity is generated via double-stopping over clipped piano chords and some real romantic nobility and fervour develops as well. The prayer and the jagged again co-exist in the slow movement whilst of the two successive scherzi the second acts an accelerated pendant to the first (it lasts 37 seconds). The finale shows more of that rather old-fashioned romanticism that critics take to be malign and corrupted – though this movement doesn’t sound like that to me. Écrasez l’infâme (from Voltaire) is suffused with those wildly oppositional pulls that we have seen again ansd again in his music; a Grieg-Brahms axis is broken asunder by piano disjunction and insane violence. Silence looms up and a strange dislocation pervades everything until the final hymn-like tune evolves from the mess and the madness. Which makes the final work on the disc Andante Religioso (originally written for violin and organ) that much more unsettling. One feels Langgaard of all people would hardly go gentle into that good night.

Production standards have been triumphantly met in this second and final volume; my admiration for the two performers is unaltered. You will find much of this music unsettling for a variety of reasons – puzzlement as to Langgaard’s stylistic "point," flinching at his volatility and juxtaposed violence, and bewilderment at the elements of compression and elongation in his music. That said his is a voice that exerts a worryingly strong pull on me – and maybe on you as well.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett



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