6. Rued & Vagn

Two contrasted Danish composers, Rued Langgaard and Vagn Holmboe.

They were born just sixteen years apart at the interstice of nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Langgaard (1893-1952) initially looked back to the late Romanticism of Wagner, Bruckner and Richard Strauss for his musical language; while the music of Holmboe (1909-1996) looked forward, aligning itself with the nationalist ‘modernists’ – Sibelius, Bartók, Nielsen and Stravinsky.

Yet, with hindsight, it’s Langgaard – who was one of the (many?) genuine eccentrics in the composerly world – that seems the more radical (an example: listen to his Music of the Spheres below and read the titles of the fifteen sections!) and it’s Holmboe who appears to belong firmly in the musical traditions of the first half of the twentieth century. (This explains, in part, why the older composer had great difficulty getting performance – it was some years after his death that his music was eventually ‘discovered’.)

Both were dedicated symphonists – Langgaard wrote sixteen, Holmboe thirteen (plus four string symphonies and three chamber symphonies). You can hear one of the better known of Holmboe’s symphonic works (No. 8, Sinfonia Boreale [Northern Symphony]) below.

Langgaard:
Music of the Spheres

I. Like sunbeams on a coffin decorated with sweet-smelling flowers
II. Like the twinkling of stars in the blue sky at sunset [2:32]
III. Like light and the depths [5:07]
IV. Like the refraction of sunbeams in the waves [7:20]
V. Like the twinkling of a pearl of dew in the sun on a beautiful summer’s morning [7:56]
VI. Longing – Despair – Ecstasy [8:41]
VII. Soul of the world – Abyss – All soul’s day [12:16]
VIII. I wish …! [14:33]
IX. Chaos – Run – Far and near [15:53]
X. Flower wither [18:01]
XI. Glimpse of the sun through tears [19:35]
XII. Bells pealing: Look ! He comes [24:54]
XIII. The gospel of flowers – From the far distance [26:50]
XIV. The new day [29:18]
XV. The end : Antichrist – Christ [30:51]

Score

Holmboe:
Symphony No. 8
Sinfonia boreale

Allegro molto intensivo (0:00)
Tempo giusto (7:27)
Andante con moto (14:05)
Allegro passionato (24:07)

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