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COMPOSERS: Langgaard
WORKS: String Quartets Nos 1 & 5; String Quartet movement (Italian Scherzo)
PERFORMER: Nightingale Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 6.220577


The Danish composer Rued Langgaard is probably best known for his extraordinary Music of the Spheres, written in 1916-18 but full of anticipations of the textures and procedures of the late 20th-century avant-garde. It’s hard to believe it was only a few years earlier that he composed his First Quartet, which begins in an easy-going pastoral manner recalling Beethoven, and then imitates other past masters. But there are pre-echoes of the episodic structure and sharp contrasts of Music of the Spheres in the slow third movement, with its sudden explosive interruptions. Stylistic flexibility was certainly a hallmark of Langgaard’s career – witness the backward-looking Quartet No. 5 of the 1920s.

Both works, and a tiny Italian Scherzo, are lovingly played by the young Nightingale Quartet, with the colouring and shaping of each phrase carefully considered. This disc completes the group’s much admired three-disc series of all the quartets. Volume 1 offers better examples of the composer’s proto-modernism, and Volume 2 of his style-switching. Volume 3 casts further light on Langgaard’s art, but still leaves him as much of an enigma as ever.


Anthony Burton