WORKS: Rosengaardsspil (Rose Garden Play), BVN 153; String Quartet in A flat, BVN 155; String Quartet No. 4 (Summer Days)
PERFORMER: Nightingale String Quartet
Mixed feelings are virtually guaranteed with any collection of works by the unclassifiable Dane Rued Langgaard. Stylistically these works oscillate between delicate late Romanticism and a kind neoclassicism so innocent that at times it hardly seems to merit the ‘neo-’ prefix. Only it’s soon clear that this is a composer who doesn’t think like anybody else, except perhaps Schumann in his disturbed ‘idyllic’ vein. Either the course is weirdly unpredictable, or there’s a no real progress at all, at least not in the European symphonic sense.
The only recently rediscovered Rose Garden Play is exquisite: deliciously teasing one moment, painfully tender the next. (Yes, that really does sound like Schumann.) After this the first two movements of the A flat major Quartet seem studiedly bland, yet in the strangely timeless repetitions of the slow movement and finale we hear distant echoes of the visionary Music of the Spheres. Quartet No. 4 revisits material from Rose Garden Play, yet it could almost be reworking by another mind: superficially more demonstrative, yet far less revealing.
As in their first Langgaard disc the Nightingales play this music with an understanding and love that puts competitors in the shade. And it’s all beautifully recorded. Recommended – so long as you start with Rose Garden Play! Stephen Johnson