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Antichrist - Church opera in six scenes - DACOCD 517
Symphony no. 1 - DACOCD 404
Symphony no. 2 and 3 - DACOCD 405
Symphony no. 4 and 6 / Stupel - DACOCD 406
Symphony no. 4 and 6 / Frandsen - DACOCD 560
Symphony no. 5, 7 and 9 - DACOCD 407
Symphony no. 10 / Schmidt - DACOCD 560
Symphony no. 10, 11 and 12 - DACOCD 408
Symphony no. 14 / Schønwandt - DACOCD 560
Symphony no. 8, 14 and 15 - DACOCD 409
Symphony no. 13 and 16 - DACOCD 410
»Fra Arild« Concerto for piano and orchestra- DACOCD 535
Concerto in one Movement for Violin and Orch. - DACOCD 463-464
Prelude to »Antikrist« - DACOCD 410
Heltedød (Death of a Hero) - DACOCD 406
Drapa - DACOCD 405 - DACOCD 883
Interdikt - DACOCD 406
Music of the Spheres - DACOCD 560
Sfinx - Tone Poem for Orchestra - DACOCD 408
Organ MusicMessis. Organ drama in three evenings BVN 228- DACOCD 485-486
Piano MusicSarabande BVN 6- DACOCD 369
Songs3 Rosengaardsviser - DACOCD 308
Rued (Rud) Immanuel Langgaard was born in Copenhagen on 28th July 1893, the only child of the composer and pianist Siegfried Langgaard (1852 - 1914) and his wife, the pianist Emma Langgaard, née Foss. He grew up respecting the classical-romantic tradition in Danish music, which spanned from Niels W. Gade to Horneman, and admiring foreign composers such as Wagner and Liszt. Siegfried Langgaard had studied with Liszt for two periods during 1878 79, and the piano concerto he composed was the first instance of the great lateromantic concerto in Denmark.
Rued was given his first piano tuition by his mother aged only five, and within two years he had mastered Chopin's mazurkas and Schumann's DavidsbOndlerTanze. His father then took over the training of the young boy, who at about this time produced his first compositions. His further theoretical studies took place at the Horneman Conservatoire of Music, and he studied the violin and organ with Messrs. C. Petersen and G. Helsted respectively.
Langgaard's first public appearance was at a recital in Copenhagen's Marmorkirken in 1905, at which he improvised at the organ. Grieg was present and expressed his admiration for the prodigy. His debut as a composer came in 1908 with the choral work Mu.vae trinnn phantes, which he had completed two years earlier, but it was not well received. During the same year he commenced work on his first symphony which was given its first performance in 1913 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under no less a figure than Max Fiedler. The symphonic poem Sf nx was premiered at the same concert, which thus established Langgaard as a highly-gifted and extremely promising young composer.
After the death of Langgaard pere in 1914, the young man's mother became the focal point of his life, watching and (over-)protecting her remote and introverted son's artistic development. In a letter to a family fnend the lady quoted her son as follows: "I (Rued Langgaard) want to wander on sacred paths, paths open not unto mankind but unto the spirit alone. Earthly spheres are too low for me; human emotion, in so far as it adheres to the body, too imperfect". Evidence indeed of a sensitive and original young person!
Three months after the death of his father Langgaard made his conducting debut at the Copenhagen Music Society. During this period he was also assistant organist at the Marmorkirken and Garnisonskirken churches while, as a composer, the years from 1910 to the early 1920's were his most productive and artistically successful. He was awarded a number of grants as well as a life-long annual bursary from the Danish government. Between 1920 and 1923 he travelled to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, conducting his own works (the 4th symphony in Heidelberg and Darmstadt) and hearing the interpretations of others (the 2nd symphony in Vienna, in 1922). It was also at this time that he began to withdraw from the established Danish, or rather Copenhagen, musical life. A series of vehement attacks by his mother on the new musical ideals of the age dragged Langgaard and his lateromantic idiom into the struggle between what was seen to be performable and what was no longer considered comme il faut. The new purist attitude to church music similarly left Langgaard's subjective and evocative artistry out in the cold. While his artistic ability was of course all his own, there can be little doubt that his domineering parents, with their roots in the earlier generation's esthetic ideals, and in particular his father's theosophical beliefs, left the young Langgaard in a situation that was to the benefit of neither himself nor Danish music in general. He had - like the hero of an inverse Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale - turned from a white duckling into an ugly swan.
His mother died in 1926 and, one year later, Langgaard marned Valborg Constance Tetens, who was two years his senior and who had been living with the family for four years. Apart from a brief tenure as organist at the church of Christiansborg Castle in Copenhagen from 1926 to 1929 his applications for a permanent position as an organist were in vain.
During the 1930's Langgaard's output, which by then totalled more than 200 works, began to fall dramatically. Apart from the revision of the 5th symphony only one major work - Messis, a drama for organ in three "evenings" - appeared during this period. In 1927 he founded his own Classical music Society, in order to 'counterbalance the horrors of modern music', but it came apart after only three concerts.
In 1940, at the age of 47, he was made organist at the cathedral of the small West Jutland town of Ribe, an appointment he himself considered his final banishment from Copenhagen musical life. A large number of his liturgical organ works were composed in Ribe, as were the last seven symphonies. Much of his production from this latter period were to remain unperformed, among them the 16th and last symphony, composed the year before his death on 10th July 1952.
After her husband's death Constance Langgaard made a great effort to bring order and system to the wealth of music he had left, and her list was the only catalogue in existence until Bendt Viinholt Nielsen in 1991 published his complete, annotated catalogue on Odense University Press. Upon Constance Langgaard's death in 1969 the composer's works were entrusted to a foundation.
Langgaard's output was prodigious. The total of more than 400 works, including adaptions, arrangements and numerous revisions and reworkings are difficult to survey. The symphonies were performed but a few times: many received their first performances only several years after Langgaard's death, partly because only a few of them were ever printed. The music is powerful and direct, but the many revisions of the large-scale works in particular failed to tighten up their form, or limit the sudden and abrupt outbursts. It is at once full of contrasts and primitivist, if also invariably genuinely human in its constant swings in mood. As a lateromantic Langgaard was not after the merely ostentatious and calculated breadth of a Tchaikovsky or a Rachmaninov, but more the immediate and pure sentiment such as chaotically siezed him as he composed.
His skill in orchestration was no less than masterly and, without regard to any orchestral difficulties, he created quite unexpected sonorities and harmonic effects based on the classical ideal he never betrayed. This goes not just for the 16 sYmohonies: the Diano and organ works too take the maximum advantage of the possibilities of their instruments. The chamber music and the more than 150 songs show great melodic inventiveness paired with a keen poetic sensibility.
The works from between 1910 and 20 are for the most part influenced by the great late-romantic manifestations of the time, and both Richard Strauss, Wagner and others are hinted at. Towards the 1930's there is a shift towards a more subdued, refined expressiveness with a clear, transparent structure. The great orchestral piece Sfærernes Musik (The Music of the Spheres) would be an example. Starting with the third symphony the symphonies tend to be of one movement, varying in length from half an hour to just six minutes. During the early period nature was a great inspiration to Langgaard - his family's summer holidays in Sweden in particular were to leave their mark on his music - but before long this Iyricism was to fuse with an almost overpowering sense of religion, where his contestation of (and fascination with) the triumph of evil over good, the struggle between light and dark, God and Satan, and fear of the inferno and perdition were to find powerful expression in his music. In no piece does he demonstrate his humane concern and basic philosophy more forcefully than in the biblical opera AntiErist (Antichrist), recognized as being one of his masterworks.
Thanks to his absolute mastery of the orchestra, enabling him to compose complicated divisi for the strings, prescribe doublings in the wind section (where frequently the piccolo and E flat clarinet are to sound together, for instance) and the eclectic selection of percussion instruments of which he avails himself, Langgaard was easily carried away by his emotions and in many of his major works he anticipates composers such as Ives, Hindemith and Messiaen. But wherever Langgaard found his inspiration, his music was never less than religious: it was through his compositions that he fought his religious struggle. At the same time, despite the bizarre titles and programme notes some of the works bore - strange word combinations of his own invention, and onomatopoeic words as headings for the works - his music is also absolutely "pure" music. An example of his choice of words would be the direction to play something "white-hot"; among his tempo indications are to be found "furioso mortifero", "schnervole" (mockingly) and "pesante colerico". Other replacements for the more common character indications included those inspired by nature, such as "Forest Roar", "Brightening Weather" and "Thunderclouds". Such ambiguos titles might create the impression that Langgaard's music is little more than the undisciplined music of ecstasy, but in fact he is always in control of the physical framework of his settings, and as a symphonic poet he is a great storyteller. But in the symphonies - which would be more properly classed as symphonic poems, as they are not in a classical sense symphonic of form - his choice of title and descriptions frequently creates more confusion than clarification.
Langgaard has been criticized for recycling often fairly large chunks of earlier pieces in new works, but he could see nothing wrong in returning to emotions and moods that held him on earlier occasions and quoting them in new works where the message he was trying to get across was the same. These emotions are easily recognized given Langgaard's clever utilization of all the orchestra's possibilities: from the ironic and sarcastic to the transfigured, appealing and profoundly fervent. Langgaard mastered the harmonic tonal idiom to perfection, and saw in it the enduring capacity of music to affect the human spirit.
His mission went through music and when he sat composing, frequently very early in the morning, the music would seize him so that the end result - however pastiche-like and rhapsodic it might at times seem - always bore witness to an honest and genuine human struggle, one that leaves no-one untouched.
© Jesper Buhl
English translation: Per Sommerschield.