Conductor: Thomas Dausgaard
Orchestra: Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Year of recording: 2007
SPARS Code: DDD
Hybrid Multichannel SACD
About the Composer: Danish romantic prodigy Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) created his first symphony while under the voting age.
About the Music: If you have a penchant for towering, sugar-engulfed late romantic works, you’ll appreciate the high-octane sentimentalism of this hour-long symphony, completed in 1911. Titled Mountain Pastorals by the composer, the five-movement symphony deftly depicts the various sights, sounds, and feelings experienced by a traveler arduously scaling a majestic mountain. The beginning movement, which is the largest part of the piece, sets the stage masterfully; while the intimidating attributes of the treacherous, craggy region at the base of the mountain are strongly pronounced, Langgaard also conveys the scenery’s vivid grandeur. There’s a fair amount of repetition here, but you’ll admire how the contrasting motifs are developed.
The subsequent three movements are much shorter but provide more unique sounds. The restrained second movement, which represents the flowers on the mountain as they are moved by the cool wind, contains an interesting, ethereal passage roughly three minutes in, and the third movement has an eloquently forthright quality which effectively presages the struggles to be faced as the traveler’s altitude rises. Images of a jubilantly swinging grappling hook occupy my mind during the briskly paced fourth movement, Mountain Ascent.
It is in the final movement, however, where Langgaard really provides his audience with the unadulterated, schmaltzy climax that they demand; after more dangerous maneuvering along the rocks, the mountaineer finally emerges victorious as he eyes the landscape from the summit. The movement is so overwrought at times, you’re led to absurdly speculate that Rachmaninoff had some Copenhagen timeshares and decided to do some ghostwriting because the nearby amenities proved to be less than satisfactory.
I’m not partial to sprawling, bombastic symphonies like the one presented on this disc, but if you have a fascination with such epic compositions, it is well worth your time to see how Langgaard’s effort compares with the work of Bruckner and other authors of large-scale pieces.