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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Eight Songs – Emil Rittershaus (1908-13) [33:43]
Fünf Lieder (Five Songs) (1914) [09:57]
Fem erotiske digt (Five Erotic Poems) – Vilhem Krag (1915) [14:00]
Jens Krogsgaard (tenor); Jan Ole Christiansen (piano)
Rec. February 2016 MCH Herning Kongrescenter, Denmark
DANACORD DACOCD771 [57:50]

The Danish composer Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) wrote a vast amount of music. There is one opera, sixteen symphonies, some 35 other orchestral works, 25 pieces of chamber music, 175 organ and piano pieces and a similar number of choral and vocal works. Amongst all this music are 143 songs, most of which were written in Langgaard’s younger days. A number have been lost. A small selection were published during the composer’s lifetime.

The present CD selects three groups of songs. Firstly, there are eight melodies based on words by the German poet Emil Rittershaus (1834-97). The second, ‘Fünf Lieder’ is a song-cycle with texts by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788-1857) and Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) and the final cycle is a setting of five poems by the Norwegian poet, Vilhelm Krag (1871-1933).

The three groups of songs are very different in style. For anyone who loves the music of Wagner, the Rittershaus settings will appeal immediately. There is considerable power in these romantic, often overblown, songs that explore the usual themes of love, death, nature and pain. The complex almost ‘orchestral sounding’ piano parts are counterpoised with long evolving melodies for the soloist. The subject matter of these songs includes a lover’s declaration, watching his mistress asleep, the reflection of the world in her eyes, ‘Death’, ‘Spring Nights’ and ‘Keep Still’ (!).

The Fünf Lieder are quite different in their musical style. The composer often makes use of more regularly constructed melodies with straightforward accompaniments. He has pared down his style allowing the vocal line to dominate the proceedings. The songs deal with ‘Spring Greetings’, ‘Dawn’, ‘What is this Pain Then?’, ‘I know of a Great Garden’ and ‘A Fir Tree.’

The listener should not be carried away with the word ‘erotic’ in the title of the final song cycle. These texts, by Vilhelm Krag, shimmer with nature symbolism, passion and fragrant memories and thoughts. They are in no way explicit. Langgaard has brought a wide range of musical styles to these texts – from simple verse setting, through an almost impressionistic vocal and piano presentation to pure recitative.

I felt that Jens Krogsgaard was sometimes just a touch harsh in some of these songs but overall, he gives a convincing recital. The pianist, Jan Ole Christiansen provides a beautifully stated performance of these varied and often complex accompaniments.

The liner notes include the texts of all the songs in German/Norwegian and English. There is a short note about Rued Langgaard and the usual details of the performers. I could have wished for a bit more detail about the songs, as there is very little written elsewhere.

This is an excellent introduction to Langgaard’s songs. Like much of this composer’s music the listener will be conscious of his eclectic style: the composer picked and chose whatever style best suited the moment. What is not in doubt is the sheer beauty and musical poetry of many of these settings. They will be of huge interest to all lovers Scandinavian songs in particular and ‘lieder’ in general.

John France

Detailed Track Listings:
[1] Für Dich [2:58]
[2] Sie Schläft [4:07]
[3] Die Sonne meines Lebens [2:44]
[4] Das Auge [3:53]
[5] Sterben [6:12]
[6] Frühlingsnacht [8:45]
[7] Halte still [2:36]
[8] Mit Hellen Augen [2:38]

Fünf Lieder
[9] Frühlingsgruss (J. v. Eichendorff) [0:59]
[10] Morgendämmerung (J. v. Eichendorff) [2:45]
[11] Was ist mir denn so wehe? (J. v. Eichendorff) [2:16]
[12] Ich weiss einen grossen Garten (J. v. Eichendorff) [1:05]
[13] Ein Fichtenbaum (H. Heine) [2:52]

Fem erotiske digte (5 Erotic Poems) - Vilhelm Krag
[14] Og atter ser jeg (Once again, I see) [2:05]
[15] Naar du kommer (When you arrive) [2:12]
[16] Lys nat (Bright night) [2:50]
[17] Serenade (Serenade) [3:20]
[18] I de forunderlige, blonde nætter (In the wondrous, blond nights) [3:33]

 

 



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