Rued Langgaard: Rose Garden Songs
04 March 2010
American Record Guide
Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) is best known in these pages as a symphonist and iconoclast whose romantic style of composition set him at odds with the Danish musical establishment. I read several reviews of his music that American Record Guide has run over the past decade or so, and most of them expressed admiration for his music and for his dogged insistence on staying true to his artistic vision. (Only his organ music and an anthology of solo songs elicited ho-hum responses.) This program presents nearly all his works for a cappella choir. Not a note of it was published in the composer's lifetime.
The first six works, including the three Rosengaardsviser Songs, are secular. The other 16 tracks are devoted to the hymns and minimotets Langgaard composed in the 1940s after he was appointed organist and precentor at Ribe Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Denmark. Langgaard's choral music is romantic through and through-lyrical and introspective. Warm harmonies and light, gracious vocal timbres follow him through both the sacred and secular realms. The occasional melody overstays its welcome as verses repeat and repeat; and there is the matter of 16 hymns stacked up in a row, which might have you wishing for a sea chantey or two just to break things up. But there's not an unattractive sound anywhere in the program; and as the odes to love, solitude, and ebbing Scandinavian summers roll by you'll wonder how any musical fraternity worth its salt could have given this guy a hard time.
Aided by handsome SACD sonics, the choir sounds gorgeous from start to finish. Informative notes and full translations are included. Count me in as a member of Langgaard's ARG fan club.