Langgaard: The End of Time; From the Song of Solomon; Interdict

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Langgaard
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: The End of Time; From the Song of Solomon; Interdict
PERFORMER: Nina Pavlovski (soprano), Stig Andersen (tenor), Per Høyer (baritone), Per Salo (organ); Danish National RSO & Choir/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Is Rued Langgaard the most frustrating composer of all time? At his best he can be as visionary and fabulously original as Charles Ives or William Blake. At his worst he is bewilderingly bad. That a man who could write something as uniquely daring and beautiful as Music of the Spheres (also available on Chandos) could have progressed – or rather regressed – to pallid imitations of Wagner, Richard Strauss, even Mendelssohn, mixed with hymn-book clichés, beggars belief. Unfortunately, there’s too much of the latter Langgaard here. The visionary does make fleeting appearances, especially in the End of Time music (derived from Langgaard’s huge opera-oratorio Antichrist). The ethereal string counterpoint at the heart of the Prelude is a reminder of what Langgaard achieved when the inspirational channels were open. But the rest is heavy going, despite hard work by all concerned. From the Song of Solomon, written in 1949 (three years before Langgaard’s death), is like Strauss made with skimmed milk, and weirdly diffuse in its effect. The autobiographical Interdict may have been rich in personal significance for its creator, but the material is desperately thin. Finally, and worst of all, there’s Carl Nielsen, Our Great Composer! – Langgaard’s musical raspberry to the Danish establishment which ostracised him. The text is simply the title, as Langgaard directs, ‘repeated to eternity!’ (fortunately this version fades out after about eight minutes). By all means hear Music of the Spheres if you can; but this disc is like a post-mortem on a once rare talent. Stephen Johnson