Rued Langgaard: Piano Works Vol. 2
12 September 2011
Hints of Grieg, Schumann and Messiaen in the Danish composer's piano music Imagine auditioning this disc with no clues about the composer Rued Langgaard and his nationality, or the works and when they were written, and then having to describe what you heard. You might ascribe the Allegretto from Remembrances of Summer to Grieg as rewritten by Schumann, yet Ravel's Ondine kicks in at 18", followed by a passage that smacks of Brahms's late Intermezzos. Certainly it doesn't sound like anything from 1940. By contrast, the 1921 Music of the Depths features slow, ceremonial, mystic Satie chords and birdsong evocations that predate Messiaen (they sound like Messiaen without sensuality or tone colour), followed by a section exploding with impassioned, Scriabinesque repeated chords that soon arpeggiate like Busoni's polytonality on steroids. Should you want to hear Wagner's Lohengrin in the style of yet another Brahms Intermezzo, listen to the 1904 Album Leaf.
However, when you arrive at the large scale 1934 Adorazione, the simple yet harmonically rich harp-like chords (later augmented by a chromatic counter line in octaves) clearly carry their own identity (OK, a tinge of Holst, but just a tinge!). The miniatures that encompass Langgaard's Summer Holidays in Blekinge from 1916 are like Grieg's Lyric Pieces off kilter. For example, the final piece, Aften med Dans, begins like an innocent salon waltz, yet the dynamic surges and petulant accents signify trouble up ahead in the form of restless modulations, only to calm down by way of a lyrical, chordal conclusion. Pianist Berit Johansen Tange has become a more confident and dynamically empowered Langgaard interpreter since her 2005 release devoted to the composer's piano music, and seems more temperamentally attuned to the keyboard writing's high quirk quotient and ear-catching inventiveness. The surround-sound option offers a fuller-bodied ambience in comparison with the conventional two-channel playback's relatively dry, close-up sound.