"A Composer Who Forged a Different, More Defiant Path"
The New York Times, August 26, 2007
A review of two recent CDs featuring the music of Danish composer Rued Langgaard. Most of the sounds heard in these pieces could have been conjured in the 19th century, but they were written in the 20th. In earlier works, Langgaard was much more experimental; his Music of the Spheres, finished in 1918, even manages to predict Ligeti's cloudy polyphonies. Rebuked by the establishment, Langgaard invented a new vocabulary based almost entirely on Romantic-era sounds, but with a strange syntax all its own. In the context of his troubled life, it comes off less as reactionary conservatism than as a streak of willful defiance.
It's a fascinating story, but what's more important is that this is also captivating music. The pioneering complete cycle of the 16 symphonies by Ilya Stupel and the Artur Rubinstein State Philharmonic Orchestra is still in print on the Danacord label. Neeme Järvi, naturally, explored some of these pieces, and even brought the Sixth to the New York Philharmonic, a performance reviewed here by Bernard Holland. Gennady Rozhdestvensky (who conducted an excellent Chandos recording of Music of the Spheres) and Leif Segerstam also took note of Langgaard. But the current symphony cycle Thomas Dausgaard is recording for the DaCapo label provides the most convincing accounts to date of these curiously beautiful pieces.
One last note: Leon Botstein, it comes as no surprise, will present the U.S. premiere of Langgaard's Music of the Spheres with the American Symphony Orchestra next June, on a program that also includes pieces by Takemitsu, Panufnik and Ligeti; details are here.
Harrison Birtwistle - Neruda Madrigals - BBC Singers, London Sinfonietta/Susanna Mälkki (live recording from Royal Albert Hall, July 31, 2007)
Huang Ruo - Chamber Concerto Cycle - International Contemporary Ensemble/Huang Ruo (Naxos)
Philippe Manoury - La Partition du ciel et de l'enfer; Jupiter - Ensemble Intercontemporain/Pierre Boulez (Adès)
Annea Lockwood - The Glass World; Tiger Balm (EM Records; Japan)
Charlemagne Palestine - Charlemagne at Sonnabend (CP Records)
Tony Conrad - Early Minimalism (Table of the Elements)