, November 2009
His choral work is melodic and gorgeously conceived, always keeping the words in focus and not cluttering up the melody with harmonies that are too obtrusive, though his harmonies can indeed be complex, some of them even reminding me of English composer Herbert Howells. The first works on this disc are my favorite here, the lovely “Alluring Sounds”, “The Milkmaid”, and “The Harvest Bird”, followed by the namesake of the album, Rose Garden Songs, perhaps distinguished by its use of timbre and harmony as opposed to melody. Langgaard refuses to be pigeonholed, and offers us fresh takes in each work according to the muse he felt based on his texts.
Even the large number of motets and hymn melodies given here express a symbolism and romantic ethos that inspired a reactionary element in Danish music, our composer not being associated with this in any way. He steadfastly rejected the notion of enhanced use of Reformation melodies and a jettisoning of the romantic spirit. As a result, these wonderful pieces are heard through the spirit of the 19th century, unapologetically manipulated for maximum emotion effect.
This is an SACD version of a 1997 release, and welcome it is, the enhanced surround in no way sounding like a beefed-up artificial manipulation. The Ars nova Copenhagen performs this music with evident affection, and if your choral collection needs some refreshing, you’ve found a perfect starting place.