Langgaard: String Quartets, Vol. 2
25 November 2015
Grant Chu Covell
Volume 2 continues the Nightingales’ luminescent Langgaard survey with three quartets sparked by an unrequited youthful romance during a summer in Sweden. What happened among the roses remains a mystery, as the unrestrained revisionist Langgaard has proven to be an unreliable historian. Chronology means little where Langgaard is concerned. Exceptionally anachronistic, there are maneuverings that suggest a close study of Beethoven. Langgaard could also be as bright as Rossini or Mendelssohn. There are also dark moments and extended passages without musical development that wouldn’t become commonplace until 20th-century minimalism and post-Romanticism. But Langgaard had no sense of irony. Adopting older styles and mixing them up never bothered him, although it would have alienated and confused audiences.
The 1918 quartet titled Rosengaardsspil arranges Classical and Romantic gestures like appliques on faded wallpaper. A scherzo titled “Mozart” is actually not Classical but more like Mendelssohn’s youthful string symphonies. The finale, Rococo, anchors in a later age. The other 1918 quartet, in A-flat, has ghosts of Beethoven’s Op. 130 running through its precise movements. No. 4 rummages through Rosegaardsspil; however, this time through it’s gushingly late Romantic. Slow movements in these three tend to be sad.