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Reviews: Langgaard: Symphony No. 1 - Dausgaard

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Reviews: 3

Site review by Geohominid May 24, 2008
Performance:   Sonics:
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Site review by Castor December 14, 2008
Performance:   Sonics:
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Review by jlaurson January 3, 2009 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Danish record company DACAPO is joining the chorus of vocal supporters of Rued Langgaard (1893-1952). It was the second volume of the Dacapo recordings of Langgaard’s Violin Sonatas that turned me on to this marvelous, lovably strange, utterly romantic, occasionally acerbic, short-lived 20th century composer. Since then, I’ve tracked down most Langgaard releases—especially his symphonic œuvre. Alas, not until Dacapo started recording the symphonies with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard (on hybrid SACDs, no less), were there truly credible, excellent versions of these works available. I reviewed Symphonies 12 through 14 earlier last year (“There is Something Wonderful in the State of Denmark”) and Symphony No.1 is in some ways even more impressive.

That’s in most part due to the work itself. Although written when Langgaard was still a teenager (1908-1911, premiered by an enlarged Berlin Philharmonic off 100+ musicians on April 10th 1913), it betrays a master craftsman and – most importantly – a master melodist. Langgaard, who went on to found a music society to “counterbalance the horrors of modern music”, never adjusted to (much less adapted) the dissonant and dodecaphonic style of his contemporary composers. Consequently he was shunned by critics after 1918.

Langgaard is not ashamed of the occasional Tchaikovskean melodic phrase (four minutes into the first movement, check for yourself if you resist the urge to figure skate to that music), Wagnerian bombast, and it’s all put to perfect, sumptuous use in this five movement symphony. Although programmatic music (the symphony depicts a hike from the rocky shores of a mountain to its pinnacle, the movements are named “Surf and Glimpses of the Sun”, “Mountain Flowers”, “Legend”, “Mountain Ascent”, and finally: “Courage”), it works perfectly well as absolute music. It’s a bold, audacious, uninhibited, unabashedly pleasant symphony – perhaps like early, very frivolous Mahler – minus the Angst and the chromatic twists. Or might it be described as de-kitsched Rachmaninov? Whatever the case, it’s a glorious sixty minutes played exceedingly well and captured in glorious sound. Urgently recommended to anyone who likes romantic orchestral music, whether Tchaikovsky or Sibelius, Bruckner or Respighi.

--Review by Jens F. Laurson, WETA FM, December 17, 2008

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