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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
String Quartets - Vol. 2
Rosengaardsspil in E, for string quartet, BVN 153 (1918) [25:17]
String Quartet in A flat, BVN 155 (1918) [22:36]
String quartet no.4 in F, Sommerdage' BVN 215 (1914-18/1931) [20:35]
Nightingale String Quartet
ec. Concert Hall, Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, 7-10 January 2013 (BVN 155), 16-17 November, 20-21 December 2012 (BVN 153), 18-21 August 2012 (BVN 215)
DACAPO SACD 6.220576 [68:28]

For Dacapo and the Nightingale String Quartet (NSQ) alike, this is a quickish follow-up to volume 1 of Rued Langgaard's string quartets, released in spring 2012. It has a very similar feel. The only noteworthy difference, arguably, is the fact that the three works heard here come from an earlier period. That was before his music became more idiosyncratically flirtatious - or "filled with so much frustration and weirdness", as the NSQ's first violinist referred to the first-disc quartets. Indeed, this trio in particular is said to encapsulate feelings of love towards a certain 'Dora' that would stay with Langgaard all his life - even after his later marriage to Constance. There is, consequently, a lot of lyrical warmth and nostalgia embedded in these scores, which are basically late-Romantic-cum-neo-Classical in spirit. They are indeed conservative enough for Carl Nielsen's somewhat earlier quartets to be considered a useful reference point.
Dacapo have promised nine string quartets, the six numbered ones plus the A flat and Rosengaardsspil, both heard here, and the set of variations already appearing on volume 1. There exists also a late and very short quartet movement, the 'Italian Scherzo', which may or may not be included on the single volume to come. With the cycle Dacapo are, curiously, in direct competition with themselves: a double disc featuring quartets nos. 2-6 was recorded by the estimable Kontra Quartet in the 1980s, originally appearing on RCA LPs (DCCD 9302). It appears the Kontras never did complete their Langgaard cycle, although that may be due in part to gaps in the scholarship at the time.
Lest the collector be drawn to the present set primarily by the 'SACD' badge, it may be worth recalling that the first disc, recorded by the same team at the same location, did not really deliver 'Super-Audio' engineering, despite a short-listing for the 2013 BBC Music Magazine Awards. Volume 2 is no different: spacious, but so bright that the NSQ might have been given protective sunglasses for the recording sessions. Furthermore, although microphones have thankfully been kept away from players' noses, background traffic does intrude repeatedly in the more tranquil passages - of which there are quite a few.
Still, these quibbles are not so major as to constitute a true caveat emptor. Besides Langgaard's delightful, fundamentally hospitable music, the NSQ's interpretations are also most commendable. Volume 1 was in fact their commercial recording debut, but they showed little sign of greenness or nerves. A year or so on, they seem even more relaxed and in tune with the works of their maverick compatriot. A blend of expressive astuteness and technical self-confidence leaves the whole project smelling aptly of roses. The CD's credit side is further augmented by extensive and informative booklet notes, in English and Danish.
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