Rued Langgaard (1893-1952)

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin

The saviour of neglected Symphonies – such as and – Sakari Oramo is also reclaiming Rued Langgaard’s first such work,

‘Mountain Pastorals’ made a big impression in London, and now Oramo was bringing it home, for Langgaard’s debut Symphony (which he started when a thirteen-year-old) had its premiere by the Berlin Philharmonic – in 1913 conducted by Max Fiedler – and, while he is visiting, Oramo is also recording it for Da Capo. In five movements and lasting nearly an hour, this romantic and descriptive work found the Berliners (led by Albena Danilova guesting from the Vienna Philharmonic) in heroic and alluring form, the twenty-minute first movement’s power and scenic beauty sustained by glorious playing (the scoring includes two harps, Wagner tubas and two timpanists, woodwinds in threes and as many string-players, violins antiphonal, as can be accommodated on a stage, with percussion saved for the biggest moments). It’s not all sonic splendour as ‘Mountain Flowers’ demonstrates, a meditation on loveliness, followed by the shadowy intimations of ‘Legend’. The Symphony ends with ‘Courage’, music that endeavours to reach a summit, and when it does seven extra brass-players are cued (three each of trumpets and trombones and a tuba) to be added to the already-full contingent for a triumphant peroration, the Danish flag placed atop of Everest.

This, for me, second performance of ‘Klippepastoraler’ found it standing up well to another listen.

The concert’s first half was filled by Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. From the strings’ ethereal whispering to the resounding concluding bars, this was a compelling performance, Janine Jansen lyrically intense and virtuosically impassioned, with plenty of light and shade to offset rich tone, as well as dynamic variety and spot-on intonation; and, when partnered by a master Sibelian such as Oramo, the result was as poetic as it was dramatic, a first movement of largesse and journeying without show, then a particularly spacious Adagio of deep songfulness, and a Finale that, even if it slightly risked overriding the ma non tanto qualification, was fiery and sure of direction and also no barrier to Oramo highlighting woodwind details not always guaranteed to reach the ears.

There being no problem this week for the Digital Concert Hall to broadcast a Decca artist,, Jansen went on to give a soulful reading of the Largo from J. S. Bach’s C-major Sonata BWV1005.