Langgaard in Europe: Music of the Spheres and Antikrist
13th September 2018
Music of the Spheres in Glasgow Cathedral
On September 27, the colossal and groundbreaking work by Rued Langgaard for mezzo soprano, choir, organ and two orchestras, Sfærernes Musik (Music of the Spheres) (1918, 39’) will be performed at Glasgow Cathedral. Thomas Dausgaard, who directed the work’s UK premiere at the 2010 BBC Proms, will conduct the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Voices and award-winning young British soprano Rowan Pierce.
Music of the Spheres is a unique work for its age – Langgaard himself described his intentions as having ‘completely given up everyone one understands by themes, consistency, form, and continuity. It is music veiled in black and impenetrable by mists of death’. Indeed, it is surprisingly ‘post-modern’ in style; repetition, static rhythms, timbral and spatial effects and slow-moving tonal clusters pervade the work. In 1968, when György Ligeti was adjudicating new scores, Per Nørgård secretly included Music of the Spheres in the collection. Ligeti was astonished to find many of the hallmark techniques he employed in his music foreshadowed by Langgaard half a century earlier, leading to something of a revival of the composer’s music.
The concert also will include Haydn’s Symphony No 99, alongside a selection of songs by Richard Strauss, and will offer a rare chance to hear this often-neglected masterwork of an under-performed genius.
Antikrist in Mainz
Less than a month later comes an even scarcer opportunity to hear Langgaard’s magnum opus, the powerful and provocative allegorical opera Antikrist (Antichrist) (1923, 130’). Written in 1923 but not performed until 1980, the opera courted controversy, with the libretto originally a subject of intense censorship. The opera consists of a prologue and epilogue framing the opera with the story of the Antichrist, with six allegorical scenes in between showing the negative impact he has on the world. Musically a work of intense emotion and beauty, there are to be further performances of the stunning production by Staatstheater Mainz on October 6, October 15, October 25 and November 11.
Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) was a Danish composer and organist. 11 when his first composition was premiered Langgaard expressed himself in a late Romantic idiom but also wrote radically experimental works. In his own self-image he existed in an oppositional relationship to the leading Danish composer of the time, Carl Nielsen, which led to isolation and neglect of his work as both composer and organist, despite 16 symphonies and several major orchestral works. He was a Protestant, though he was at times attracted to both theosophical philosophy and mysticism.
Read the full biography here.