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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Symphony No.2 ‘Awakening of Spring’, BVN53a (1912-14) [38:11]
Symphony No.6 ‘The Heaven-Rending’, BVN165 (1919-20 rev 1928-30) [21:34]
Unnoticed Morning Stars, BVN336-2 (1947-48 rev 1950-51) [7:00]
Jacob GADE (1879-1963)
Tango Jalousie ‘Tango Tzigane’ (1925) [3:53]
Anu Komsi (soprano)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
rec. 2017/18, Vienna Kozerthaus
Text and translations included
DACAPO SACD 6.220653 [70:40]

There’s nothing half-hearted about performance or recording in this disc; both are resplendent. After Oramo and the Vienna Philharmonic’s investigation of two of the symphonies of Per Nørgård, they have now turned to a brace by Langgaard and the results are equally salutary and convincing; Langgaard has surely never sounded this rich on disc.

The sheer refulgence of the Straussian rhetoric that opens Symphony No.2 is magisterial, with gorgeous lyricism and near-Elgarian confidence (in Cockaigne mode) before Langgaard starts spinning developmental surprises – that startling Lento section, played with expressive richness – anticipating the brassy climax that drips Late Romanticism. The chorale-as-hymnal that opens the slow movement actually shows some affinity with the orchestral introduction to the slow movement of the Grieg Piano Concerto though the music soon moves off into a kind of phantasmagoria in which Langgaard powerfully suggests the nightmarish things to come. It is a moment of true terror in the Awakening of Spring symphony, something that not even the consoling return of the hymnal can quite efface. The finale employs an orchestral lied, finely sung – with directness and lucid control - by Anu Komsi as the music generates a triumphant, surging Wagnerian apotheosis.

Unsettling though elements are in the Second Symphony, the Sixth embodies some of his most powerful structural contrasts. Cast as a theme and five variations the music reflects and comments and curls in on itself; the light and dark sides of the symphonic argument, or Christ and Antichrist. The symphony’s hymn opening is immediately subjected to a corrosive reflection and thereafter a strained terse fugue that clearly flirts with free atonality hardly re-establishes any sense of calm. The implacable nature of the fourth variation may well remind the listener of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, written a few years before Langgaard’s, though not even Nielsen rose to the apocalyptic heights that Langgaard does here. If the coda promises consolation it’s of scant duration, undercut by pounding percussion, strident brass. The Heaven-Rending symphony stretches the sonic argument almost to breaking point in its amalgamation of the light and the dark. He revised it in 1928-30 but it contains some of his most radical music in form, content, and effect.

After this, Unnoticed Morning Stars for string orchestra comes as a kind of relief. It is in fact the second movement of his Symphony No.14 and performed, as he instructed it could be, as a stand-alone piece. It lasts seven minutes and is bathed in a decidedly Straussian warmth. After which Oramo picks up the violin, his first instrument, for a rendition of Jacob Gade’s Tango Jalousie, a deft performance of a piece so jarringly at odds with the rest of the programme it could almost have been programmed as such, from the grave, by Langgaard himself.

Jens Corenlius has written a splendid booklet note and the magnificent performances and recorded sound register every detail of these scores. You cannot fail to be awed and possibly even appalled by the results.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Dan Morgan (Recording of the Month)

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