Rued Langgaard: String Quartets Vol. 1
01 July 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
If the name Rued Langgaard means nothing to you, you're in good - or at least plentiful - company. Born in 1893, the Danish composer was a stranger even to his contemporaries, his music scorned and practically unheard throughout his lifetime and even afterward (although there was a mild uptick of interest after his death in 1952). This superb recording by the excellent Nightingale String Quartet is the first installment of a projected complete cycle of Langgaard's nine string quartets, and it makes one wonder what else we've been missing. Langgaard's style teeters on the edge of late Romanticism and the Expressionist fervor of the early 20th century, with lush tonal writing cheek by jowl to ripely aggressive bursts of sound. Langgaard's most notable signature - and perhaps this is what alienated his contemporaries - is a restlessness of mood and form; he's constantly shifting gears in ways that might seem arbitrary at first. But the pieces unfold with a compelling emotional logic, and some of the music here - the gorgeously pictorial third movement of the String Quartet No. 2 ("Landscape in Twilight"), or the fierce opening movement of the String Quartet No. 3 - is simply breathtaking. I can't wait for the next release.