Langgaard: String Quartets 1 & 5
06 October 2014
David’s Review Corner
David DentonShunned by the Danish music establishment during his lifetime, Rued Langgaard, with dogged determination, completed over four hundred scores in most genres.
By the age of eighteen he had written an hour-long symphony, only to find that the powers-that-be in his homeland made it impossible for him to arrange a first performance. That took place in Germany with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Max Fiedler, its success of little avail, as the following year the First World War was declared, an event that closed that avenue for future performances. Suitably humbled the Danish music establishment now recognise that he was, of his time, one of Europe’s most outstanding composers, his complete string quartets now recorded by the Nightingale String Quartet for the Danish national record label, Dacapo. Completed in 1914, when he was twenty-one, he soon lost faith in the First Quartet, and was to totally revise it two decades later when he rejected two of its original movements. The end result has a relationship in style and content with Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht
, though in Langgaard’s case the mood swings are far greater and dramatic. It is a score that impresses on first hearing, and subsequently chisels its way into your memory. The Fifth also underwent considerable changes before arriving in its final state thirteen years later. By now he had chosen to ignore those around him and wrote the work as a lyric and very beautiful score. The disc is completed with a brief morsel—the ‘Italian Scherzo’ .
Not quite in the centre of every violin note in the Fifth, the young Nightingale Quartet are powerful champions of an outstanding composer, the disc beautifully recorded and fervently recommended.