Thomas Dausgaard

Rued Langgaard: Symphonies 12-14

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As the tempo indications Allegro con spirito and Andante Nobilmente give a fair idea as to the contents of Mozart and Elgar's music, so do Rued Langgaard's tempo indications give a fair idea as to the contents of his "Hélsingeborg" symphony, named by the composer after his hometown. It starts Furiously! then goes through Distinguished!, Increasingly agitated, and Wildly to end seven separate tempo changes later with Amok! A composer explodes. From start to finish, then, the "Hélsingeborg" is the music of a man raging against the sheer bloody injustice of the world. Lamentably, Langgaard's rage, like his music, is all but inarticulate, full of striking gestures without continuity, grand rhetoric without cogency, towering climaxes without consequence, and intricately elaborated structures without meaning or point. Imagine an incoherent Brian, a hysterical Atterberg, and a radically retro Pettersson and you've got some idea of what to expect from Langgaard's "Hélsingeborg."

And that's just the first seven minutes and only the first of the three symphonies on this disc. The next symphony, "Belief in Wonder," takes 28 minutes; and because it consists of the same inchoate and unfathomable music, it is, by simple aesthetic arithmetic, four times as unbearable. The next symphony, "The Morning," is chronologically only a minute longer than its predecessor, but it is nevertheless aesthetically almost twice as unendurable. Considered in themselves, the unrelenting banalities of "Radio-Caruso" and particularly "'Dad's rush to the office" are intrinsically no more excruciating than the "Hélsingeborg," but because they, along with almost all the rest of the symphony, are scored for chorus and orchestra, they, along with almost all the rest of the symphony, are twice as painful as the purely orchestral symphonies. What changes the artistic equation, however, is the blissful simplicity and quiet ardor of the pure orchestral "Unnoticed morning stars," music so light, so lovely, and so open-hearted as to make all previous criticisms seem unduly harsh. This radiant bliss is the symphony's -- and Langgaard's -- saving grace. It may be tough -- indeed, it may be nearly impossible -- to get through most of the music on this disc, but, at the right time, in the right mood, Langgaard's "Unnoticed morning stars" is just the thing.

Thomas Dausgaard and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra do everything they can with Langgaard's banalities and luxuriate as much as possible in his sublimities. Da Capo's sound is reserved and restrained -- which is a good thing considering the quality of most of the music.

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