Thomas Dausgaard

Rued Langgaard: The Symphonies

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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.

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