WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1 (Viole); Violin Sonata No. 2
PERFORMER: Serguei Azizian (violin), Anne Øland (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224153
Rued Langgaard’s violin/piano compositions prove as varied in style and achievement as the rest of his huge oeuvre, so much of which seems to have been composed consciously against the stream of history. The First Violin Sonata of 1915 is a big four-movement work, more Schumannesque than anything, full of High Romantic rhetoric, grand gestures and a copious invention always in danger of spiralling out of control. (The title Viole apparently indicates Langgaard’s wish for the player to cultivate a dark, viola-like tone.) Though he revised it in 1945 he would have been better to have pruned it severely – yet it has a brilliant, fiery scherzo and the other movements all have striking moments.
Still, its passion is somewhat confected when matched against the Second Sonata of 1920-21, an impressive and original one-movement piece from the period of some of Langgaard’s most radical works – and, like that music, an expression of his apocalyptic religious ideas. It starts out as a kind of fantasia on a hymn-tune (‘Behold the Master cometh’), and some passages quite strongly recall the hymn-tune vein of Ives, whose works Langgaard could not have known. But the range and intensity of the development, bringing different kinds of music into collage-like confrontation, are unlike anybody else. Though the piano tone is a shade boxy, the recording is perfectly acceptable and the performers expound both sonatas with winning ardour.
Recommended: the Second Sonata is a piece that repays many hearings. Calum MacDonald