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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Symphony No. 1 (1998-11) [61:30]
Danish National Symphony Orchestra DR/Thomas Dausgaard
rec. Danish Radio Concert Hall, 12-18 May 2007
DACAPO 6.220525 [61:30]
Experience Classicsonline

The Danish record company Dacapo is renewing its supporters of Rued Langgaard (1893-1952). It was the second volume of the Dacapo recordings of Langgaard’s Violin Sonatas from 2004 that turned me on to this marvelous, lovably strange, utterly romantic, occasionally acerbic, short-lived 20th century composer. Since then, I’ve tracked down most Langgaard releases – especially his symphonic oeuvre. Alas, not until Dacapo started recording the symphonies with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard (on hybrid SACDs, no less), were there truly credible, excellent versions of these works available – the laudable and fine efforts of Ilya Stupel and the Artur Rubinstein State Philharmonic Orchestra or various Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra performances (all Danacord) notwithstanding. I reviewed Symphonies 12 through 14 earlier last year (“There is Something Wonderful in the State of Denmark”; Rob Barnett’s review for MusicWeb is here) and the latest release with Symphony No.1 is in some ways even more impressive.

That’s in most part due to the work itself. Although written when Langgaard was still a teenager (1908-1911, premiered by an enlarged Berlin Philharmonic off 100+ musicians on April 10th 1913), it betrays a master craftsman and – most importantly – a master melodist. It reminds us of the “theory” that Glenn Gould once posited - mostly in reference to Berg’s Piano Sonata op.1 - that the first work of a composer can often be his best and most original. I would not go so far as to claim that Langgaard never wrote a better piece, but he set the bar very high here, not unlike what he did in the early Aubade for Violin and Piano, the genuine sweetness of which must impress all who hear it. Langgaard, who went on to found a music society to “counterbalance the horrors of modern music”, never adjusted to - much less adapted to - the dissonant and dodecaphonic style of his contemporary composers. Consequently he was shunned by critics after 1918.

Langgaard is not ashamed of the occasional Tchaikovskian melodic phrase - four minutes into the first movement, check for yourself if you resist the urge to figure skate to that music. He’s also unafraid of Wagnerian bombast, and it’s all put to perfect, sumptuous use in this five movement symphony. It depicts a hike from the rocky shores of a mountain to its pinnacle, the movements are named “Surf and Glimpses of the Sun”, “Mountain Flowers”, “Legend”, “Mountain Ascent”, and finally: “Courage”. Although programmatic, it works perfectly well as absolute music. It’s a bold, audacious, uninhibited, unabashedly pleasant symphony – perhaps like early, very frivolous Mahler – minus the Angst and the chromatic twists. Or might it be described as de-kitsched Rachmaninov? Whatever the case, it’s a glorious sixty minutes played exceedingly well and captured in glorious sound. One of my favorite recordings of 2008 and urgently recommended to anyone who likes romantic orchestral music, whether Tchaikovsky or Sibelius, Bruckner or Respighi.


Jens F. Laurson





Langgaard Reviews on MusicWeb International

Organ & Piano Music

Messis, In Tenebras Exteriores / Fleming Dreisig / Danacord 485-486
Review by Rob Barnett

Piano Music / Peter Froundjian / Danacord 430
Review by Rob Barnett

Piano Music / Berit Johansen Tange / Dacapo 8.226025
Review by Rob Barnett

Piano Music Vol.1 / Bengt Johnsson / Danacord 369
Review by Rob Barnett


Insektarium” & other piano music / Rosalind Bevan / ClassicO 240
Review by Rob Barnett

Orchestral Music & Opera


“Enchanting Music” - Three Songs for Choir (as well as works for choir by Holmboe and Haumann) / Coro Misto, Søren Birch / Danacord 546
Review by Terry Barfoot

Antichrist / Tyrolian SO, Niels Muus / Danacord 517
Review by Rob Barnett

The End Of Time, From 'The Song of Solomon', Interdict, “Carl Nielsen - Our Great Composer” / Danish National Radio Choir & SO, Gennady Rozhdestvensky / Chandos 9786
Review by Rob Barnett

Sinfonia interna / Canzone Choir Aarhus SO, Frans Rasmussen / Dacapo 8.224136
Review by Rob Barnett

Music of the Spheres, Four Tone Pictures / Danish National Radio Choir & Radio SO, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky / Chandos 9517
Review by Rob Barnett

Piano Concerto “From Arild” / Oleg Marshev , Danish Philharmonic Orchestra, South Jutland, Matthias Aeschbacher / Danacord 535
Review by John France

Symphonies 4 & 6, Music of the Spheres / Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, John Frandsen / Danacord 340-341
Review by Peter Grahame Woolf

Symphonies 4 & 5 (both versions) / Danish National RSO, Thomas Dausgaard / Dacapo 8.224215
Review by Rob Barnett

Symphonies 6-8 / Danish National RSO, Thomas Dausgaard / Dacapo 8.224180
Review by Rob Barnett
Review by Terry Barfoot

Symphonies 9-11 / Danish National RSO, Thomas Dausgaard / Dacapo 8.224182
Review by Rob Barnett

Symphonies 12-13 / Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Choir DR, Thomas Dausgaard / Dacapo 6.220517
Review by Rob Barnett

Symphonies 4, 6, 10, 14, Music of the Spheres / Danish National RSO, Schønwandt, Frandsen, Schmidt / Danacord 560
Review by Rob Barnett

Complete Symphonies (1-16), Artur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir, Ilya Stupel / Danacord 404-410
Review by John France

Chamber Music

Violin Sonatas, Vol.1 / Serguei Azizian & Anne Øland / Dacapo 8.224153
Review by Jonathan Woolf
Review by Rob Barnett

Violin Sonatas, Vol.2 / Serguei Azizian & Anne Øland / Dacapo 8. 226006
Review by Rob Barnett
Review by Jonathan Woolf

Chamber Music (incl. Septet & String Quartet in A flat major) / Annette L Simonsen (mezzo), Randers Chamber Orchestra / Dacapo 8.224139
Review by Rob Barnett

String Quartets / Kontra Quartet / Dacapo 9302a/b
Review by Jonathan Woolf

String Quartet No.3 (& Carl Nielsen Violin Concerto) / Miró String Quartet / Bridge 9100
Review by Jonathan Woolf

 


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