Inger Dam-Jensen, soprano
Hetna Regitze Bruun, mezzo-soprano
Peter Lodahl, tenor
Johan Reuter, baritone
Danish National Concert Choir
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
August 20
Dacapo

amazon-1itunespresto

Langgaard: Music of the Spheres

About the Album – Dacapo

Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) was an odd, lonely figure in Danish music. The three works on this SACD are among his most effective and visionary orchestral works. They are apocalyptic works with a religious message, and each involves a musical contrast between a chaotic, doomed world and a celestial world of beauty and light. The Music of the Spheres, with its evocative, striking timbres, is Langgaard’s most original and forward-pointing work, and a major work of Scandinavian music.

Tracklisting

Rued Langgaard

Sfærernes musik, BVN 128 (Music of the Spheres) (1916 – 1918)
For soprano solo, chorus, orchestra and distant orchestra
1. Wie Sonnestralen auf einem mit duftenden Blumen bedeckten Sarg 3:01
2. Wie Sternenschimmer an einen bläulichen Himmel bei Sonnenuntergang 3:20
3. Wie Licht und Abgrund 2:21
4. Wie die Brechung der Sonnenstrahlen in den Wellen 1:03
5. Wie Tauperle schimmert in der Sonne an einem schönen Sommermorgen 0:33
6. Sehnsucht – Verzweiflung – Extase 3:46
7. Weltseele – Abgrund – Allerseelen 2:25
8. Ich will! 1:17
9. Chaos – Ruin – fern und nah 2:14
10. Blumen welken 1:32
11. Blick durch Tränen auf die Sonne 6:04
12. Glockenreigen: Siehe, er kommt 1:53
13. Blumenevangelium – aus weiter Ferne 2:39
14. Der neue Tag 1:25
15. Das Ende: Antichrist – Christ 6:26

Endens tid (The Time of the End), BVN 243 (192123/193940/1943)
For mezzosoprano, tenor, baritone, chorus and orchestra
16. I. Antikrist. Præludium (Antichrist. Prelude) 9:34
17. II. Ved endens tid (At the End of Time) 5:06
18. III. Mod Ragnerok (Towards the End of the World) 4:23
19. IV. Katastrofen (The Catastrophe) 5:08

20. Fra dybet (From the Abyss), BVN 414, For chorus with soloists and orchestra(1950/52) 7:34

Reviews

“CD of the Month – March 2011 “Absolutely not to be missed!” – MusicWeb International

“Es gelingt hervorragend, die Qualitäten von Langgaards Musik aufs Beste zu akzentuieren.” – Klassik.com [Trans: It succeeds perfectly to accentuate the qualities of Langgaard music in the best]
“Superbly played and recorded disc … Highly recommended.” – Gramophone Magazine
“Stunningly ambitious and well-executed…Amazing.” – BBC Music Magazine *****
“This is possibly the strangest, most delicious music you’re likely to hear all year. Fabulous.” – The Arts Desk
“CD of the Month October 2008 – The music is terrific and wholly gripping … stunningly recorded and beautifully performed … A truly awesome event” – 10/10 – Classics Today
“Som lytter løftes man med og op på denne intense bølge af vellyd.” – Klassisk ***** [Trans: Lifts you with up to this intense wave of euphony.]
Listen on Spotify
Dacapo Liner Notes

Rued Langgaard: Music of The Spheres

Rued Langgaard is an outsider in Danish music. His Late Romantic and Symbolist background and his passionate views on art and the role of the artist brought him into conflict with the sober, anti-Romantic view of art that reigned supreme in Denmark in the interwar years. Langgaard did not shrink from the visionary and experimental, the eccentric and extreme, and his music ventured into areas where the outlooks, musical styles and qualitative norms of the twentieth century clash. Rued Langgaard was born in 1893, the son of a highly respected Copenhagen piano teacher, Siegfried Langgaard, who was also active as a composer and was greatly preoccupied with musical/philosophical speculations along Theosophical lines. Langgaard’s mother was a pianist too, and he had his basic musical education from his parents. In 1905, at the age of 11, he made his debut as an organ improviser in Copenhagen, and when he was 14 his first major orchestral and choral work was performed. But the young composer got off to a bad start, since the reviewers gave it the thumbs-down; and in fact Langgaard never succeeded in being properly accepted either by the press or by the musical powers-that-be in Denmark. So in 1911, when Rued Langgaard had completed his hour-long First Symphony, it proved impossible to have the work performed in Denmark. Langgaard had been on several study trips to Berlin, accompanied by his parents, and the Langgaard family’s contacts with conductors like Arthur Nikisch and Max Fiedler led to a world premiere of the symphony in 1913 in Berlin by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Max Fiedler. Yet the overwhelming success enjoyed on this occasion by the 19-year-old composer did not result in a performance of the symphony in Denmark, and the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 made it impossible for Langgaard to follow up his success in Germany itself. The scepticism of the Danish musical establishment towards Langgaard meant that he had difficulty getting his compositions performed, and had to organize his own concerts to present his music. The expansive artistic development he experienced in the 1910s therefore went unnoticed by both critics and audiences. Important experimental works like Sinfonia interna (1915-16), Sfærernes Musik (The Music of the Spheres) (1916-18), Symphony No. 6 (1919-20) and the opera Antikrist (1921-23) were either not performed or not understood in Denmark. In his native country Rued Langgaard was alone in striving for a visionary musical idiom as a continuation of the Romantic tradition with a Symbolist basis of the kind one finds in the works of Scriabin. The tendency in Denmark was towards a questioning of the whole Late Romantic spirit, and Langgaard had to go to Germany – at the beginning of the 1920s – to experience successful performances of his symphonies. Yet there was no question of any widespread or general interest in Langgaard in the south, and the performances soon ebbed out. The years around 1924/25 marked a major turning point in Langgaard’s life and music. After many years of openness and responsiveness to currents in the most recent music – not least in Carl Nielsen’s progressive works – Langgaard changed tack and turned to a Romantic, pastiche-like style with Niels W. Gade and Wagner as his exemplars. He indicated that he felt betrayed by the age and by the musical establishment, and he hit out at Carl Nielsen, who in his view had a status that was far too guru-like. The result was that Langgaard was now given the cold shoulder in earnest. After 1930, concert performances of his works became rare indeed (they were however given quite a few radio broadcasts, especially in the 1940s). He was unable to find a job as a church organist, although he applied for innumerable posts all over the country. He did not succeed until 1940, at the age of 47, when he was given the position as organist at the cathedral in Ribe in South Jutland. In Ribe Langgaard’s music entered a new phase in which the defiant, the jagged and the absurd became more prominent. After Langgaard’s death in 1952 his name seemed threatened by oblivion; but in the 1960s the renewed interest in ‘neglected’ Late Romantics shed new light on Langgaard: it was discovered that although Langgaard had fundamentally been a conservative composer, there were features in his music that strangely prefigured the static music, collage music and minimalism of the 1960s and 1970s. Today innumerable of his 431 compositions have been recorded, his output and life have been recorded in book form, and his works, most of which remained unprinted, are being published. The Music of the Spheres The Music of the Spheres (1916-18) is one of the most distinctive and experimental compositions of the beginning of the twentieth century. In this work, Langgaard relates, the composer set aside all that is normally understood by motifs, development, form and continuity. What takes centre stage instead is ‘themes’ such as space, timbre, height and depth, foreground and background. The work requires a large orchestra with eight horns, organ and piano, four sets of timpani as well as a 15-member ‘orchestra in the distance’ (with soprano soloist) and a large choir. But Langgaard deploys this enormous orchestral array with extreme economy. The organ, for example, appears only in a very short passage, and an orchestraltutti only enters after 30 minutes. Large parts of the work are static, and the sound level remains at the faintest of volumes. One can hardly speak of a true development, although there is a concentration towards the end where the forces are finally gathered and unleashed. Each of the many sections insists on one idea of sonority, but along the way more ‘normal’ music also appears, almost as passing reminiscences of ‘earthly music’, or in the form of the Lied that the soprano performs together with the distant orchestra. The tonal world of the spheres, the ‘space’ effects and the recurrent use of layered and repetitive sound patterns give this highly episodic work a feeling of unity. To these we can add the constantly playing timpani which forms a cohesive element in the sonority. There is an obvious connection between The- Music of the Spheres and two of the prominent artistic currents around 1900, the Jugend/Art Nouveau style and Symbolism. The form of the work can actually be perceived as a Jugend-inspired frieze or- a column of timbral surfaces with ornamental and decora-tive features. But the programme of the work, too, which is revealed in the preface to the score and the headings above the individual sections, includes much of what we associate with the Jugend style and Symbolism: the metaphysical, fantastical, dream-like and ritual; the vi-sionary and the mys-tical; and not least a life-and-death symbo-lism whose duality is expressed in the cryptic preface to the score:

The celestial and earthly music from red glowing strings with which life plays with claws of beast of prey – this life, with an iris-crown round its marble-face and its stereotypic – yet living – demonic smile as if from lily cheeks.

The duality is even more clearly expressed in the motto Langgaard attached to the work as late as ar-ound 1950: “Kindly the stars may seem to beckon us, cold and unmerciful, though, is the writing of the stars.” The composition ends with an apocalyptic vision. In the wake of the First World War Langgaard was greatly preoccupied with the figure of Antichrist, the end of the world and the idea of a new Utopian social order that was to be based on a fusion of religion and art. He set his visions to music in works like Symphony no. 6 The Heaven-Rending (1919-20), the piano work Music of the Abyss (1921-24) and not least the opera Antichrist (1921-23). In these and several other ‘apocalyptic works’, Langgaard employs the technique of confronting musical idioms of widely differing characters. At the end of The Music of the Spheres with the heading Antichrist – Christ we have a striking example of this. First we hear a fortissimo chord (D minor) one and a half minutes long in the choir, around which the full orchestra entwines its fast arabesques (in D major) ending with a one-minute-long, booming timpani roll and high, trembling violins. After this chaotically noisy passage follow ‘celestial’ harp glissandi and ethereal chords from the choir. The chromatic harp effect that is heard is performed on a piano, on which ‘glissandi’ are executed directly on the strings. The work fades out into space with a dissonant chord (of nine notes). The score was published in 1919, the first per-formance took place in Karlsruhe in Germany in 1921, and the next year The- Music of the Spheres was repeated in Berlin. On these occasions the composition was furnished with the subtitle “A life-and-death fantasia”. Langgaard tried several times to have the work performed in Den-mark, but without success; it only had the two performances mentioned during the composer’s lifetime. The recent history of the work began in 1968, when on the initiative of the composer Per Nørgård the score came into the hands of György Ligeti, who after leafing through it a little exclaimed: “I didn’t know I was a Langgaard imitator!” For Langgaard had anticipated several of the ground-breaking compositional effects that Ligeti used in some of his works from the beginning of the 1960s, not least inAtmo-sphères (1961). The Music of the Spheres was given a new performance in Stockholm in 1968, but could not be heard in its entirety in Denmark until 1980. The Time of the End The rather curious title is a Biblical quotation from Chapter 8 (verse 17) of the Book of Daniel, with its visions of the end of the world. The whole composition consists of extracts from Langgaard’s operaAntichrist in its original version from 1921-23. The Time of the End thus comprises the prelude to the opera as well as a number of short scenes from three of the tableaux of the opera in revised form. Only a very small part of the music is to be found in the reworked and shortened version of Antichrist known today, which was completed in 1930. Langgaard clearly considered that much of the music he had omitted in the reworking, including a large section with double choir, could be re-used, for in 1939-43 he put together the concert work The Time of the End on the basis of this material. The work presents the main characters ofAntichrist and illustrates the idea of the opera in a highly compact form. The false prophet Antichrist, who calls himself “the prince of life”, achieves – with the support of the Church -spiritual supremacy in the world, but when Ragnarok begins he proves powerless, he loses his grip on the situation and perishes in the chaos of the end of the world along with his partner and opponent “the Great Whore”. The latter plays a major role in Antichrist, but in The Time of the End is only assigned two bars at the end of the work. The Time of the End was played for the first time on Danish radio in December 1945, whereas Antichrist (in its final form) did not have its stage premiere until 1999; it has later been recorded on CD and DVD, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard. From the Abyss This short choral work is so to speak Langgaard’s own requiem, and is the last dated composition known from his hand. The title has nothing to do with the Biblical psalm De profundis; the text consists of short sentences from the Requiem Mass, some from the Lux aeterna, some from the Dies irae. The composition begins with march-like, grotesque, enervating music that recalls Mahler or Shostakovich. Langgaard writes in his sketches that he heard this music in a dream in December 1950. This -nightmarish music is suddenly interrupted and succeeded by sounds that rise up “from the abyss”, from an undersea Atlantis where lost souls pray for redemption – a programmatic idea that Langgaard had from a French legend. Two musical worlds confront each other here as at the end of The Music of the Spheres. After the intense introduction for large orchestra we hear first a distant organ, then an eight-part solo section, after which a polyphonic choral structure is built up. A first version had been completed in 1950, but the composition was revised as late as April 1952, when Langgaard added a new ending composed to a single line from the Dies irae text: “Mihi quoque spem de-disti” (“To me also hope Thou gavest”) – a concluding, personal religious affirmation which Langgaard stages very effectively with an a cappella choir accompanied by regular, death-symbo-lizing tom-tom beats. Bendt Viinholt Nielsen, 2010  

Watch: The Music of the Spheres Promotional Video