Rued Langgaard: Rose Garden Songs
24 February 2010
This is by no means a new disc. It was recorded back in 1997 but makes a valuable and valued SACD reappearance here over a decade after initial release. The Langgaard ‘problem' (if there is one) does not exist here, in a disc which strikes a tripartite programmatic pose: the c.1916 choral songs to secular texts, the Rose Garden
songs, and finally Motets and hymn melodies. Suffice to say that the performances are exemplary in their tonal beauty and in their captivating rhythmic assurance; glorious singing and direction from first note to last.
The section devoted to the Choral songs opens with one of the most rapt and beautiful settings in the selection, Lokkende toner, with its repeated refrain and sense of lyric mellifluousness. It's utterly beguiling and a fine place with which to appreciate the somewhat Delian harmonies implicit in Langgaard's writing. Sæterjenten is a faster grained setting, and makes an apt contrast between Lokkende toner and the last of the three, Høstfuglen which is notable for its poignant, indeed bittersweet harmonies.
The three Rose Garden songs are equally lovely, and fragrant. The repeated figures of the first give it a swirling, circular inevitability; that hypnotic return strikes a note of rapt inevitability - there's something elemental about his deceptively simple writing, except that the musicians make it sound simple. The bright, warmly affirmative second setting, Bag muren sidde de roser små is another warming example of his affirmative settings.
The rest of the disc, the majority, is given over to Motets and hymn melodies. These vary from the beneficent to the more obviously inspirational Langgaard. An example of the latter is Gid du ville sønderrive from 1945 with its rich harmonies and approach. By contrast something like Den store mester kommer embodies the simple but not simplistic virtues of the hymnal impetus. These seldom if ever cloy in his settings. If one suspects that the 1938 setting of Døden er den sidste fjende is straying in this direction, then be assured that Langgaard's expressive arsenal of harmonies ensures that things remain alive and supple. Such sturdy melodies as Tusind år stod Kristi kirke and Op, I kristne, ruster eder are, in fact, some of the most lovely and direct things here, and it's this sense of directness, honesty and meeting one's gaze, musically speaking, that embodies all these settings. I'd cite Døden er den sidste fjende as possibly the most explicit example of that quality in this selection.
The booklet documentation includes full texts, and the SACD sound-stage adds to the sense of perspective and depth. In every way then, this is a lovely disc.