Langgaard: Symphony No. 9; Symphony No. 10; Symphony No. 11

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Langgaard
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Symphony No. 9; Symphony No. 10; Symphony No. 11
PERFORMER: Danish National RSO/Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224182
All three symphonies come from the war years when Denmark was under Nazi occupation, and all bear subtitles. The Ninth (From Queen Dagmar’s City) tells of the Bohemian princess’s visit to Ribe in 1212 and her death in childbirth. (Langgaard, incidentally, had been appointed organist of Ribe Cathedral in 1940.) The symphony starts like Schumann but after about two minutes makes some queasy modulatory lurches that are vaguely Wagnerian. Small wonder that the Danish musical establishment of the day did not take Langgaard seriously. The Tenth, Yon Hall of Thunder, is scored for a large orchestra (three piccolos playing in unison and five clarinets – actually to striking effect) and is inspired by the Kullaberg peninsular in Skåne, Sweden, where Langgaard spent many summers. There are lashings of regurgitated Wagner and Strauss here tempered by some intermittent flashes of individuality. The Eleventh (1945) takes six very long minutes. It is subtitled Ixion, who in Greek mythology was fixed to an eternally rotating flaming wheel in punishment for offending the gods (but not, I hope, having to listen to this music). As in its companions, much of the writing is ungainly and unschooled. Its waltz theme, an idea of breathtaking and appalling banality, is given no fewer than 11 times and emphatically does not improve with repetition. Robert Layton