Langgaard: Symphony No. 1 - Oramo
Dacapo Records 6.220644
Classical - Orchestral
Langgaard: Symphony No. 1
Sakari Oramo (conductor)
Despite being eccentric and at odds with his fellow human beings for most of his life, Danish composer Rued Langgaard was convinced that his time would come – and so it did. In Symphony No. 1, we find the teenage Langgaard celebrating his love of beauty and harmony in the most hedonistic terms with a gigantic alpine symphony that predates Richard Strauss’s by two years. With this recording the symphony returns home to the Berliner Philharmoniker, the first orchestra to perform this masterpiece to great acclaim in 1913.
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Review by Graham Williams - January 8, 2023
As something of a wunderkind Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) began to compose his gigantic First Symphony at the age of 14 and completed it three years later. Unable to obtain a performance in his native land, his family connections with Berlin eventually resulted in the work’s very successful premier being given by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at a concert on the 10th of April 1913 conducted by Max Fiedler. As Jens Cornelius tells us in his informative booklet notes, that evening sadly proved to be the highlight of Langgaard’s career and he eventually became an isolated and lonely figure ignored by the musical establishment.
In this astonishingly opulent work the 17 year old composer uses the full orchestral forces of a late-romantic orchestra with considerable skill. The score includes eight horns (four doubling with Wagner tubas), two sets of timpani and even an extra compliment of seven brass players who appear in the blazing peroration of the final bars. The influences of Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Strauss and Bruckner are writ large in the five movements of this programmatic symphony whose titles (‘Surf and Glimpses of Sun’, ‘Mountain Flowers’, ‘Legend’, ‘Mountain Ascent’, and ‘Courage’) evoke a mountain climb that is more a spiritual and philosophical journey rather than the overtly pictorial one in Strauss’s Alpine Symphony which, incidentally, was premiered two years after Langgaard’s work.
This superb multi-channel SACD of Langgaard’s 1st Symphony ‘Klippepastoraler’ (Cliffside Pastorals), performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Sakari Oramo, was recorded live at the Berlin, Philharmonie on 16-18th June 2022 using the 2010 critical edition of the score by Bendt Viinholt Nielsen.
Oramo delivers an incandescent account of the score, clearly relishing the magnificently committed playing from the Berlin players whose matchless tonal refulgence and blazing energy is exactly what the work requires. As one expects from this orchestra the playing combines discipline and spontaneity as well as outstanding technical security. With an overall timing of 55.34 for the piece, Oramo is some five minutes shorter than the earlier Dacapo SACD from Thomas Dausgaard Langgaard: Symphony No. 1 - Dausgaard and twelve minutes shorter than Leif Segerstam’s fine 1993 account on Chandos (CD only); the conductor’s extra urgency and purpose here ensuring that there are no longueurs throughout the full span of this riveting performance. With no disrespect to Dausgaard and his Danish forces and judged on the criteria of both sonics and superlative musicianship from all concerned this version now becomes the benchmark recording for this symphony.
The production and engineering are in the experienced hands of Preben Iwan and Mats Engström and while the liner notes provide no technical details(unlike their award winning 2018 Langgaard recording made in Vienna in DXD 352.8 kHZ) Preben has kindly provided me with the following detailed information that I am sure will be of considerable interest to members of the HRAudio community.
“The recording was done in a parallel setup with the Berlin Phil Digital Concert Hall production (normally runs in 96kHz), but first hand providing a straight analog signal to my system from microphones to digital conversion to DXD (352,8 kHz/32bit) via Horus interface from Merging Technologies. This signal was recorded onto a Pyramix masscore DAW system, also from Merging Technologies,- all 56 channels in DXD. This takes a rather superior computer system, but this has been working well for me for some years now.
Main microphones; Decca Tree with outriggers, and also and Atmos setup (to be released later this year), are from DPA microphones 4006’s, and the rest of the setup in collaboration with the Berlin Phil technical crew on my recommendations (mainly Neumann microphones).
Editing and mixing was done in my studio on location in Copenhagen, monitoring on B&W 802 Diamond speakers and Genelec The Ones series.”
The sound on this multi-channel SACD is both sumptuous finely detailed. Even allowing for Langgaard’s heavy scoring, the recording team has managed to achieve all the requisite clarity and definition that one could wish for – a remarkable achievement.
In passing it is worth noting that no record company has done more to promulgate Langgaard’s fascinating, if uneven, music than the Dacapo label. Between August 1998 and June 2008 they recorded all of the composer’s sixteen symphonies and other works played by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thomas Dausgaard. These authoritative accounts of the symphonies, available on SACD as a seven disc set Langgaard: The Symphonies - Dausgaard, are essential listening for those wishing to explore Langgaard’s musical output further.
Even if you own one or all the earlier recordings of this extravagant symphony this latest version should on no account be missed.
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