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Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952) Piano Works - Volume 3
Berit Johansen Tange (piano)
rec. Concert Hall, Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2016. DACAPO 6.220631 SACD [66:32]
The musical style of the Danish composer Rued Langgaard is difficult to discern, due to the variety of compositional methods that he employed during his life. He composed in a variety of idioms from romanticism to the more modernist ‘concrete’ style, with his piano music being no different. This is volume three of Dacapo’s complete piano music, this series being new to me - I don’t know how the other volumes have passed me by. However, I do have recordings of two of the works presented here, Insektarium and Le Béguinage on a very good Classico disc (CLASSCD 240) performed by Rosalind Bevan.
The disc begins with the cascade of notes that is the opening of As a Thief in the Night; here the composer is depicting the apocalypse and the day that Christ will return to make His Judgement. A powerful and virtuosic piece, the opening gives way to a theme that is more romantic in nature, the notes pointing to Liszt, but even this theme is interspersed by a more modern aspect involving a four-note motif in the right hand, making an intriguing and exciting piece.
The second work on the disc is Insektarium; this is the earliest of the works presented here and depicts nine musical portraits of common insects, from the delicate Daddy Longlegs, through the rippling legs of the Millipede to the final high-pitched hum of the Mosquito. Here it is thought that Langgaard created a sound world that included a world first, when he directs the pianist to directly play the strings and knock on the lid of the piano, the first composer to do so in written notation. This has led this work to become probably his best known piano work, certainly the most recorded, here Berit Johansen
Tange is a little more expressive than Rosalind Bevan, but it is the sound quality of this new recording which is the clear winner here.
Shadow Lives was begun in 1914, an important year for the composer, since it was the year the greatest influence on his early musical development, his father, the composer Siegfried Langgaard (1852-1914) died, and it also coincided with a growing belief that there was no real place for his compositions in the Danish musical world of the day. He was to see himself as a sort of shadowy figure in the music of his homeland. The piece is one of Langgaard’s most poetic, almost Schumann-like in its style, with the composer returning to the work occasionally before its completion over thirty years later in 1945.
The next work on the disc, In the Flickering Autumn Lamplight, is again an amalgam of the romantic and more modern idioms, with more romantic tunes being set against a more modernist flickering motif. We are told that the composer was fascinated from an early age by gas-lights, and Langgaard brings this out well in the music; the piece was originally to be called Will-o’-the-wisp moods, a title which to me sounds more apt for this music.
This is followed by the longest work on this disc, Le Béguinage, which bears the subtitle of ‘Little Piano Sonata’; here as earlier, Berit Johansen
Tange is better at bringing the contrasting elements of this complex and multi faceted music to the fore than Bevan is. This piece could be said to sum up the composer well, as there are elements of his more mid- nineteenth-century inspired romanticism, as well as late romanticism and his more modern style contained here. This is another virtuosic piece as can be seen in the continued changing of styles, and here once again the recorded sound is on the side of the pianist.
Chiesa madre also carries the subtitle of ‘Little Sonata’ and was composed at the same time as Le Béguinage; if anything this subtitle is more apt here than in the previous work. The title translates as Mother Church and relates to the Catholic Church which the composer felt himself drawn to in the 1920’s. The work has the feel of a series of meditative chorales. This Catholic period of his life is also referred to in the final work on this disc Sponsa Christi tædium vitæ. Here Langgaard refers to a number of lost hymns for piano from around 1923, with the music once again having a religious feel; with the booklet stating that it was in these final works on the disc that “Rued Langgaard’s religious world fall into place”.
As already indicated, the performances of Berit Johansen Tange are first rate; her ability to alternate between all the musical styles whilst still give a fully nuanced performance is wonderful. She is helped by the recorded sound which gets the very best from the piano and pianist, and the notes are excellent. I don’t know why I missed the first two volumes of this series, but I do know that I will be looking to invest in them in the future.
1 Som en Tyv om Natten (As a Thief in the Night), BV 211a (1930) [7:03] Insektarium, BVN 134 (1917)
2 I. Forficula Auricularia (Orentvist, Earwig) [2:12]
3 II. Acridium Migratorium (Vandregraeshoppe, Migratory Locust) [0:39]
4 III. Melontha Vulgaris (Oldenborre, Cockchafer) [0:45]
5 IV. Tipula Oleracea (Stankelben, Daddy Longlegs) [0:58]
6 V. Libellula Depressa (Guldsmed, Dragonfly) [0:58]
7 VI. Anobium Pertinax (Dodningeur, Death Watch Beetle [0:46]
8 VII. Musca Domestica (Stueflue, Housefly) [1:26]
9 VIII. Julus Terrestris (Tusindben, Millipede) [0:57]
10 IX. Culex Pipiens (Stikmyg, Mosquito) [0:38]
11 Skyggeliv (Shadow Lives), BVN 307 (1914-1945) [7:02]
12 I det blafrende Efteraarslygteskær (In the Flickering Autumn Lamplight) BVN 206 (1930-1933) [9:03] Le Béguinage, BVN 369 (1948-1949)
13 I. Andante marcato [3:29]
14 II. quartet note = 60 [3:26]
15 III. quartet note = 96 [1:24]
16IV. Quasi organo! [4:18]
17 V. quartet note = 92 [3:41] Chiesa madre, BVN 367 (1948-1949)
18 I. quarter note = 84 [3:05]
19 II. Introduction: Værdigt (Dignified) [9:17]
20 III. Ordrup: Grazioso [1:04]
21 Sponsa Christi tædium vitæ, BVN 297 (1944) [4:21]