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James Leonard, July 2009

LANGGAARD, R.: Symphonies Nos. 12, “Helsingeborg”, 13, “Undertro” and 14, “Morgenen” (Danish National Symphony, Dausgaard)

LANGGAARD, R.: Symphonies Nos. 15, “Sostormen” and 16, “Syndflod af Sol” (Danish National Symphony, Dausgaard)

LANGGAARD, R.: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 (Danish National Symphony, Dausgaard)

LANGGAARD, R.: Symphonies Nos. 4, “Lovfald” and 5, “Steppenatur” (2 versions) (Danish National Symphony, Dausgaard)

LANGGAARD, R.: Symphonies Nos. 6, “Det Himmelrivende”, 7 and 8, “Minder ved Amalienborg” (Danish National Symphony, Dausgaard)

LANGGAARD, R.: Symphonies Nos. 9, “Fra Dronning Dagmars by”, 10, “Hin Torden-bolig” and 11, “Ixion” (Danish National Symphony, Dausgaard)

LANGGAARD, R.: Symphony No. 1, “Klippepastoraler” (Danish National Symphony, Dausgaard)

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.

Jens F. Laurson
WETA 90.9 FM Blog, December 2008

Danish record company DACAPO is joining the chorus of vocal supporters of Rued Langgaard (1893-1952). It was the second volume of the Dacapo recordings of Langgaard’s Violin Sonatas 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 œuvre. 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. I reviewed Symphonies 12 through 14 earlier last year (“There is Something Wonderful in the State of Denmark”) and 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. Langgaard, who went on to found a music society to “counterbalance the horrors of modern music”, never adjusted to (much less adapted) the dissonant and dodecaphonic style of his contemporary composers. Consequently he was shunned by critics after 1918.

Langgaard is not ashamed of the occasional Tchaikovskean melodic phrase (four minutes into the first movement, check for yourself if you resist the urge to figure skate to that music), Wagnerian bombast, and it’s all put to perfect, sumptuous use in this five movement symphony. Although programmatic music (the symphony 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”), 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. Urgently recommended to anyone who likes romantic orchestral music, whether Tchaikovsky or Sibelius, Bruckner or Respighi.

James Reel
Fanfare, November 2008

…a confident, extroverted performance that makes the best case possible for this problematic symphony. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

American Record Guide, September 2008

This performance is splendid, as is the SACD recording…the notes are also excellent. If you are willing to experiment, this may well become a favorite recording.

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