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ClassicsOnline Home » LANGGAARD, R.: String Quartets, Vol. 1 (Nightingale String Quartet )
Rued Langgaard String Quartets vol1/Nightingale String Quartet/Dacapo
The much under-appreciated Rued Langgaard gets another post career boost with a new recording of some of his string quartets (No. 2, 3 and 6 and his variations). The music is magically trapped in a nether world between late romanticism (see Brahms, Strauss, Mahler, and early Schoenberg) and early modernism (see Scriabin, Debussy and Bartok). But don’t let that dissuade you. Even if, on top of these influences, you might find his northern European contemporaries Sibelius and Nielsen floating around, there is something emotionally different and very original here. There is a recurring progression from quiet contemplation encapsulated in Iveian hymns and chorals that suddenly flair up into Scraibin-like bursts of despair, agitation and frenzy. Also the structures are very clearly articulated, convincing, and full of technical nuance and immense skill.
The Nightingale Quartet does an amazing job of getting around all the mood shifts dangling phrases, and gasps for air. Their overall approach is a deep respect for the score, performing seamless section changes and rhythmic transitions with impeccable accuracy.
In the past, I have snobbishly renounced the digging up of forgotten romantic composers just to feed the public thirst for everything not modern. In this case, I have to make an exception, as he is a unique voice that I look forward to hearing more of.more....
An extraordinary and little known composer
From the very first piece, the Nightingale String Quartet's exciting and sensitive performance of this outstanding composer's music held me at every level, emotionally and intellectually.
Langgaard's compositions lay in a musical purgatory for many years after his death, because of the disrepute it had earned in "serious" musical circles.
Thank you so much, Nightingale String Quartet, an ensemble composed of four beautiful and highly talented Danish girls, for bringing this most original and imaginative composer to the attention of music-lovers!
I shall be eagerly awaiting the publication of Volume 2 of Rued's quartets.more....
Extraordinary and original Danish chamber music from Rued Langgaard
This is an astonishing album with music for string quartet from this enigmatic Danish composer, part of Dacapo’s relentless effort to shed a light on this probably still underappreciated music. Though I’m already acquainted with some of Rued Langgaard’s music such as his-I suppose-more famous (and through Per Norgard and Ligeti risen to fame) ‘Sfaerernes Musik’ besides some early symphonies, this CD revitalized my interest in this man and music.
Regarding Langaard’s strange personality, I will leave the debate whether he was mentally insane or merely eccentric in the middle. On the other hand we safely can state that his thoughts and music are a textbook case of stylistic ‘enantiodromy’, a feature that--generally speaking--wasn’t all that uncommon in the music of the first half of the 20th century (cfr. e.g. Busoni, a.o.) but is indeed extremely outspoken in Langgaard’s musical output, sometimes in one and the same piece. I guess it’s also this aspect that can confuse listeners the most when they’re confronted with his music for the first time. On this album as well we can find this strong contrast for instance in the machine-musical outburst à la Prokofiev in the second String Quartet and the rather more Brahms-oriented, Reger-like variations on Oh sacred Head! Now wounded.
Anyhow, one can’t deny that the pieces on this album-written in Langgaard’s ‘modernistic’ and in my opinion most sensational and original phase of his musical evolution-are of a high musical quality. They demonstrate that Langgaard was quite a master in writing for the intimate medium of the string quartet. Compare it with his exalted oratorio Endens Tid released by Chandos, and you'll hear the difference.
Regarding the interpreters of this recording, I can only say that the Danish Nightingale String Quartet's performance is from a strikingly high level. This -I assume-young quartet sounds very homogenous with a sonorous tone, sometimes tending to go in extremes in dynamics and exploration of timbre, which actually serves this music very well. They showcase their full possibilities in the ’eye catcher’ of this album, the second movement of Langgaard’s second quartet, with the composer’s representation of a train. With a lot of interesting use of bowing, and colorful dynamics they are bringing this vigorous piece wonderfully to life. These musicians possess also remarkable finesse, such as in the tranquillo-theme of the 3rd movement of the third quartet, where they manage to sound as a quartet of Viola da Gamba’s, suggesting that these musicians probably have experience in the performance of ancient music as well.
I’m not sure Langgaard has ever heard such an outstanding performance of his music during his lifetime, but in any case he couldn’t have wished for better contemporary advocates for these works. Personally I hope the next volume of these recordings will soon be released.
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