RUED LANGGAARD (1893 - 1952)
The Danish composer and organist Rued Langgaard was born in Copenhagen. His father, a pianist and composer, had been a pupil of Liszt and his mother was also a pianist. He made his debut as an organist at the age of 11. Largely self-taught as a composer, he had early success in Berlin, when performances of his works were given by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, while Danish critics remained sceptical. He was successful in Germany and at home his works were broadcast; otherwise he had little support, although eventually, in 1940, he was able to secure a position as organist at Ribe Cathedral in Southern Jutland.
Langgaard’s only stage work, the ‘opera mystery’ Antikrist, was completed in early 1923, using the composer’s own libretto. Based on the dramatic poem of the same name by P.E. Benzon and reflecting the influence of R.H. Benson’s The Lord of the World, the opera shows Apollyon, who sells his soul to the Devil, leading the world to destruction and therefore to the Second Coming of Christ. Musically eclectic, it is an example of late Romanticism in its language.
Langgaard’s songs were generally written early in his career and continue the German Lieder tradition. Sinfonia interna, abandoned by the composer, brings together five movements that appeared as separate works for soloists, chorus and full orchestra. He left a number of hymns, together with his Rose Garden Songs, written for unaccompanied voices.
Langgaard left 16 symphonies. Of these one of the most frequently heard is Symphony No. 4 ‘Leaf Fall’, which has been described as an ‘autumn diary’. Symphony No. 5 exists in four versions but draws again on nature and legend. The expressionist Symphony No. 6 ‘Heaven-Rending’, a theme-and-variations that was ill-received at its first performance, was followed by a form of Romanticism in Symphony No. 7, while Symphony No. 8 is a religiously motivated tribute to Frederiksstaden, the Amalienborg Palace and the Marble Church where Langgaard had played as a boy.