Jens Krogsgaard and Jan Ole Christiansen Perform Songs by Langgaard

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Danacord
ALBUM TITLE: Langgaard
WORKS: Eight Emil Ritterhaus Songs; Fünf Lieder; Five Erotic Poems
PERFORMER: Jens Krogsgaard (tenor), Jan Ole Christiansen (piano)


Slowly but steadily a clearer picture of the vast, weirdly diverse output of Danish composer Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) is beginning to emerge. This is a composer who could appear as free-spirited and original as Ives, Cage or Satie one moment, then write as though nothing had happened since Wagner and Schumann the next. The latter composer comes to mind most often in the songs recorded here, though only Schumann in the eerie light of his final collapse could have written the immense, bewildering neo-Bachian piano postlude to ‘Das Auge’ from the Eight Emil Ritterhaus songs. 

The thing is, where people once thought Langgaard was only interesting when he was being suitably progressive (most obviously in his extraordinary Music of the Spheres), the originality of some of his supposedly ‘conservative’ works is now becoming clearer. There are some haunting songs here: ‘Frühlingsnacht’, successor to ‘Das Auge’, is gorgeous piece of Romantic nature mysticism; ‘Was ist mir denn so wehe’ (Fünf Lieder) is a confession Schumann himself would surely have been proud to sign; while the final song, the recitative-like ‘I de forunderlige, blonde nætter’ (‘In the Wondrous, Blond Nights’, from Five Erotic Poems) is a fine example of how Langgaard’s ‘nostalgic’ voice can suddenly turn unsettlingly odd. 


The tenor Jens Krogsgaard shows understanding, but it’s the kind of voice more suited to operatic heroism than to this intensely intimate, fragile music. Good recordings, and strong accompanying from Jan Ole Christiansen, but in the end this album is only a partial success. Stephen Johnson