Rued Langgaard: String Quartets Vol. 1
01 July 2012
The Danish composer Rued Langgaard (1893–1952) is a new name to me, but if the music on String Quartets Vol.1 (DACAPO 6.220575) is anything to go by then I’ve really been missing something. Denmark’s Nightingale String Quartet is simply superb in this first volume of a series of all nine quartets by a composer described in the excellent booklet notes as an eccentric outsider who was virtually ignored by the Danish musical establishment in his lifetime. The works are essentially in the late romantic style, but mixed with a startling modernity: listen to Train Passing By, the short second movement of String Quartet No.2, written in 1918 and revised in 1931, and you could swear you were listening to two minutes of Philip Glass or Steve Reich; the following slow movement, Landscape in Twilight, is a simply beautiful pastoral episode. The String Quartet No.3 from 1924, the quite lovely single-movement String Quartet No.6 from 1918 (Langgaard’s numbering system is quite confusing!) and the variations on the chorale melody Mig hjertelig nu laenges complete a revelationary CD.
Beautifully recorded at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and issued on Denmark’s national record label, these performances are as close to definitive as you can get. Wonderful stuff, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the series.