Rued Langgaard: Music of the Spheres
14 September 2010
Classics Today (10/10)
CD of the Month - October 2010
This disc is a must for collectors of 20th-century choral music, late-Romantic "monsterpieces", and apocalyptic memorabilia of the World War I era. Rued Langgaard's Music of the Spheres, for solo soprano, chorus, and two orchestras (including organ, piano played on the strings, eight horns, four timpanists, and other enticing goodies), is a totally original conception that not only prefigures much later music (as Ligeti observed on seeing the score), but does so in a wholly captivating and aurally riveting way. Although consisting of a mostly static series of "sound fields", the constantly changing textures and spatial effects, including a mysteriously evocative song (excellently performed by Inger Dam Jensen), effortlessly sustain the listener's interest throughout the work's 40 minutes. It may be too weird to be a repertory item, but it surely deserves to be.
The Time of the End consists of the slightly rearranged extracts from Langgaard's opera Antikrist that did not survive his 1930 revision of the complete opera. Like that work, the music combines a Straussian seductiveness of scoring with a phantasmagoric sensibility that is entirely Langgaard's own. The story, in case you forgot, has something to do with the Antikrist taking over the universe along with his buddy, The Great Whore, but not in time for the apocalypse and eventual triumph of the real Christ--or something like that. It really doesn't matter: the music is terrific and wholly gripping, even if the text is nonsense as often as not.
From the Abyss
, a setting of a few lines of the Requiem liturgy, was Langgaard's last completed work, a moving testament to his enduring religious faith after a lifetime of relative misery and near total neglect. It is absolutely wonderful to have this music available on disc at last, stunningly recorded and beautifully performed by the various soloists, choir, and orchestra under thomas Dausgaard. A truly awesome event.