Rued Langgaard: Sfærernes musik
11 October 2010
BBC Music Magazine
Langgaard - The Music of the Spheres; The Time of the End; From the Abyss
Fame and fortune for the great outsider-Dane's most successful cosmic score, buried alive between 1922 and 1968 when Ligeti discovered that he had been a ‘Langgaard imitator' without realizing it, roll slowly but enexorably onwards, like the music itself. It's now 14 years since Rozhdestvensky recorded The Music of the Spheres in Copenhagen, and only this summer did the spectacular finally reach its ideal home, the Royal Albert Hall, in a stunningly ambitious and well-executed Prom from the same forces who feature here.
The two interpretations complement each other well: Rozhdestvensky's the most direct and sensuous, Dausgaard stretching the time to make it become space even more impressively. This is above all a work which cries out for SACD room to breathe, engineers capturing the quietest, highest frequencies as compellingly as the thundering sets of timpanis and the ultimate great blaze. That's even more gloriously crowned here thanks to professional Danish voices ballasting the bigger chorus (It seems they're absent from the relatively disappointing last choral work, From the Abyss).
If you think the Rozhdestvensky version might suffice then The Time of the End, or at least its Praeludium, might make you think again. Even Langgaard's greatest fans admit he could be variable, and the three apocalyptic numbers for soloists (all excellent) and chorus as well as orchestra destined for the opera Antichrist but mostly shorn in its revision start out sounding like borrowed Parsifalian agony of apocalyptic terror. Except, that is, for the very end, foreshadowed in two spellbinding treads of theme versus pizzicato machinery. Amazing, sometimes banal but never dull.