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Harry van der Wal
Harry’s classical music corner, March 2017

After a long time I came back to these recordings. And after listening for the second time I came to the conclusion that I find them to be exceptionally good.

Symphony No 3 has a solo piano in it and well it is played by Per Salo, brilliant even. …The portrayal of Langgaards genius is perfectly translated by the forces involved. © 2017 Harry’s classical music corner Read complete review

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, December 2012

CD 1 is devoted to [Langgaard’s] First Symphony…Despite its bucolic title nothing quite prepares one for the Straussian surge and Brucknerian amplitude that characterises this exuberant work. As for the full-bodied, thrustful playing it’s first-rate, and Dausgaard proves a steady steersman…

There’s magic in this symphony, the gentle mood of the second movement, ‘Mountain Flowers’, wonderfully sustained. Textures are surprisingly varied and there are few signs of impending stasis, which is remarkable in such a youthful opus.

CD 2 contains the Second and Third symphonies…the splendid brass and timp flourishes are as Romantically inclined as ever, with a dash of Korngoldian spray for good measure. Contrast that with the lyric inwardness of the second movement, whose marking ‘religioso quasi adagio’ is sensitively interpreted. This is music—and music-making—of rare beauty and line that briefly sets this composer apart from the crowd.

‘Fall of the Leaves’ has strength and sinew, its terseness tempered with rare episodes of striking luminosity…the three-minute Tranquillo eschews simple charm for a somewhat more gnarly appeal.

The Fifth is given here in both its original and revised versions. They make for a fascinating comparison, the earlier score’s softer edges supplanted by something more bracing and direct later on. Those jaunty, recurring climaxes in the first movement are a case in point; it’s as if Langgaard has taken a solvent to his canvas and revealed the vivid colours and firm brush strokes beneath the diffusing grime. As Danish Fifths go, both are suitably imposing, and Dausgaard’s persuasive readings give them real stature and strength.

CD 4…encompasses the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth symphonies. At the outset one is struck by the inwardness of the Sixth and its lightness of touch. Dacapo’s Super Audio recording is very impressive indeed, bringing out the transparency of the score’s quiet passages as well as the rude irruptions of brass and timps. At times there’s a more than a hint of controlled Ivesian chaos in the writing, which makes ‘The Heaven-Rending’ a thoroughly entertaining…listen.

The Seventh Symphony…certainly has moments of tremendous swing and energy—not to mention thrilling perorations…As for the Eighth, which includes a tenor soloist and chorus, it has a ceremonial swagger that’s well caught by the deep, sonorous recording.

Indeed, when it comes to invention the Eighth is the most delightful offering so far…The choral singing is both animated and incisive, a thrilling counterpart to the strange brass punctuations…if you like Haydn this good-natured music is sure to please.

…CD 5…kicks off with the Ninth Symphony, subtitled ‘From Queen Dagmar’s City’. It shares with the Eighth a buoyant mood, an generosity of spirit if you will, that really shines through in the freewheeling first movement. The humour and point of the second movement is pure delight, and the playing is as deft as one could wish. This is Langgaard at his most accessible, craft and content in a pleasing equilibrium. The bells of the third movement are a surprising turn, and the finale is imbued with a gentle, beaming charm that’s utterly beguiling.

CD 6 takes us into the fourth and final phase of Langgaard’s life…His late works are certainly assured, and the Thirteenth has a haunting quality that I found most affecting. This isn’t a composer who induces such sentiments elsewhere, and I suspect in lesser hands the piece wouldn’t seem as heartfelt as it does here. The Fourteenth, ‘Morning’, with its stirring choral start, is simply splendid. This is music of Mahlerian farewell, superbly performed and recorded; and while it’s not quite the summation it appears, it’s certainly the most serene and lovely writing here.

As with so many sets of this nature the final disc—CD 7…get strong, muscular performances…‘Sea Storm’, is considerably enlivened by parts for bass baritone and male chorus. Soloist Johan Reuter is firm and sonorous and the wide dynamics of the recording are especially welcome in the choral climaxes.

There’s renewed heat and vigour in the Sixteenth Symphony…

Music of near genius, quirk and quiddity; this bumper set has it all. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Andrew Mellor
Gramophone, June 2012

Langgaard has been the biggest surprise-discovery of my musical life, exploring his oeuvre akin to stumbling upon a second Barber or Martinů. The music never fails to surprise: from the far-flung, spinning sonorities of his Music of the Spheres…to the tautness of his Fourth Symphony—its poise incomparable, Brahmsian twists in colour and mood seen as if through a kaleidoscope of late-20th-century irreverence.

It’s all here—the delicate melodic gift, the exquisite distribution of material, the distinct mood within a few bars, the visionary technical effects. But there’s something bigger underneath it all: Langgaard’s ability, with all those facets in play, to distil his ideas right down to music of the most lucid simplicity and touching sincerity. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

James Leonard, July 2009

There are too few recordings of the music of Rued Langgaard, possibly because of the composer’s limited output. Of his 16 symphonies, the series of works upon which his reputation primarily rests, there are, with only few exceptions, just two recordings of each work—those recorded in the early ’90s by the Arthur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Ilya Stupel, and these recorded in the late ’90s and early 2000s by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard. Of the two sets, this one by Dausgaard and the Danish orchestra is vastly preferable. The Danish orchestra is far more unified and professional, and their performances have a cogency and polish that the Polish orchestra conspicuously lacks. Dausgaard also seems to have affinity for, and understanding of, his countrymen’s music, while Stupel seems to have lots of enthusiasm but little comprehension of Langgaard’s work.

Born in 1893, Langgaard, a very late Romantic, embraced of the clichés of Romanticism without the burden of self-consciousness. There are searing parallel diminished seventh chords that were avant-garde in the 1840s, towering funeral marches that were cutting edge in the 1870s, and achingly slow movements that were de rigueur in the 1890s, but they all sound distinctly and painfully out of place in works composed decades later. Coupled with these anachronistic stylistic anomalies is Langgaard’s acute lack of self-criticism and self-restraint. Passages of tremendous banality and awesome bombast abound; in fact, it could be said that Langgaard’s music is essentially banal and bombastic and is too infrequently relieved by passages of unfeigned sincerity and seemingly unpremeditated beauty. For many, the ratio of banality to beauty in Langgaard’s music may be prohibitively weighed in the favor of the former. For listeners for whom the nine symphonies of Langgaard’s Swedish contemporary Kurt Atterberg are the last word in Scandinavian symphonism, however, Langgaard’s 16 symphonies may be just what they’ve been waiting for. Da Capo’s sound is rich, deep, clear, and colorful.

Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2009

Rued Langgaard’s sixteen symphonies and several shorter orchestral works are beautifully played by Thomas Dausgaard and the Danish National Orchestra with assists from soprano Inger Dam-Jensen, tenor Lars Petersen, baritone Johan Reuter, pianist Per Salo, the Danish National Choir and National Vocal Ensemble (hybrid SACD [some recorded DDD and remastered] 6.200001, seven discs). Langgaard’s haunting opera, “Antichrist” had a certain grittiness but lacked profile. The grittiness, it turns out, was more a function of his style in 1921 than a permanent feature of his music. The first three symphonies seem to have been written in a time warp. The First subtitled “Mountain Pastorales,” (1908–1911) utilizes, rather impressively, the Straussian orchestral apparatus, but without the latter’s very distinctive materials. The result is a busy, noisy, rambling and unfocussed score. The Second  (1912–14) requires a solo soprano and the Third is a concertante work for piano and orchestra with a noticeably bland solo part. The Fourth (1916, “Fall”) is eccentric music in one movement, with a rather original flow. The Fifth (1917–1931), of which two versions are included (the revision much more convincing than the original) is heavily influenced by Nielsen in sound and harmony. The Sixth (1920, revised 1930, “The Heaven-Rending”) has a wonderfully dissonant first movement, the most striking music of the early symphonies. Something happened between the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies. The composer turned on Strauss and Nielsen and espoused the earlier style of Gade, very evident in the Seventh (1926), especially the finale, although the orchestration remains in the Strauss orbit, producing odd effects in the remaining symphonies, some of which are very short pieces: Nos.11 and 12 are, respectively, six-and-a-half and seven minutes long, making them more like the short pieces on Disc 7 (Drapa, Sphinx, Hvidbjerg-Drapa, Denmarks Radio (fanfares) and Res Absùrda than the rest of the symphonies, which average over 20 minutes. There are two exceptions to Langgaard’s stylistic rambles. The Ninth (“From Queen Dagmar’s City”) deals with a 13th-century Queen of Denmark, so the older idioms seem more convincing. The last symphony, No.16 (1950–51, he died in 1952) is impressive, as if the composer finally came to grips with his self-imposed stylistic restrictions and surpassed them. On the whole, the music, although well made and well sounding, has a tendency to ramble, no matter whose style it is written in. Langgaard was too unorthodox for his time, and, unfortunately, for ours. Excellent sound.

Richard Freed, June 2009

Particularly striking is the collection of the 16 symphonies and five shorter orchestral pieces by the Danish composer Rued Langgaard (1893–1952), issued fairly recently on seven SACDs from Dacapo and now gathered into a seven-disc set (6.200001). Langgaard’s name is not entirely unknown to us—some of the individual symphonies were available here on LP, and more recently the Finnish conductor Leif Segerstam has recorded some of them—but the cycle recorded very recently, in SACD, by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard has several things going for it. All the performances are based on the latest scholarly editions and radiate an altogether understandable national feeling and national pride. All seven of the CDs in this new set have been issued separately, so the issue now is simply whether to buy those seven individual CDs or go for the boxed set.

The presentation itself is handsome, convenient and unusually imaginative…this music is worth your attention.

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