Articles and other literature

"Den store Mester kommer" ("Behold the Master Cometh") and
Rud Langgaard

B.T. 24 January 1922

Several years ago, a pretty little boy in a sailor suit sat at the organ in Marmorkirken. He played and improvised and let his imagination roam, and from that evening onwards everyone knew that in him Denmark had become enriched; a new musical genius was born. The boy was called Rud Langgaard. He grew up to be big and clumsy, and there was nothing left of the pretty boy. People who saw him in the street turned to look at him, he was so tall and thin. This was evident to all, but only a few were aware that his name, even from his youngest years, would be mentioned among those musical artists of rare and special importance.

The other evening Rud Langgaard had his newest composition, a sonata built up around the theme: "Den store Mester kommer" ("The Great Master Cometh"), performed here in the town. The critics were merciless: yes, he had talent, they all agreed, but... and then followed a string of learned objections.

- - - Rud strides backwards and forwards between the grand piano and the harmonium in his lounge, like a caged eagle. He walks as if he were a hunted animal. He is as thin as a rake, his voice is high and thin, but in profile he looks like the great Liszt.

- Yes, I know, says Rud Langgaard and strides on.

- What do you think about the criticism of your new work?

- Well, God knows the criticism is justified when those who write it know what they are talking about. When I began they were very hard on me, but now there is a somewhat kinder tone.

- What is the importance of criticism in this country?

- Well, I am sure it means something to some people, to those who have no independent views, but for those who h a v e a view - not so much.

- What are your own feelings about your art?

Rud Langgaard collapses into a rocking chair, and begins to rock vigorously. I want expansion, to widen the boundaries. The human spirit yearns to widen its boundaries, but the way music has developed through the ages it cannot express the spirit of the time, what occupies us all.

- Why not?

- No. Music is limited by the present tonal system, major and minor.

- What is it that occupies us all?

- An insatiable longing...

- Are you religious?

- Well, surely, we all are... but in my case the word "God" does not cover my religious view of life. "God" for me is not an old man sitting in heaven keeping an eye on us all.

- What does "God" mean to you, then?

- Not a personal being.

Rud Langgaard leans forwards and sniffs at an empty bottle of perfume.

- But he can be represented by music, by art. I believe in the development of a greater society, where people are better than they are now, when we live with each other in dissension and strife.

- What has split us up, do you think?

- Vanity, too little interest in each other.

- But do we rather not show too much interest in each other?

- Well, yes, in a way, in the sense that we u s e e a c h o t h e r as a flattering backdrop, or not at all... otherwise everything is hatred and contempt... isn't it?... well, I think so.

- Do you not live strangely separated from life?

- How do you mean?... No, I am involved in so many things here and abroad. I am interested in dancing.

- Modern dancing?

- Yes, I dance a lot. But, of course, when my mind is concentrating on a major work, m y own personal need or desire to be involved with others is inhibited... and in my formative years I went through a religious crisis, but many other people have experienced this before me. All things religious interest me, but l i f e most of all, in fact more than all sorts of religious feeling... and in this respect I think we are far out on a limb at the moment. I do not share the view that artists only have to be stargazers all the time.

- What have women meant to you in your life?

Rud Langgaard gets up:

- Well, a mother always has an influence on her child...

Yes, but what about t h e w o m a n, as an idea?

- Oh, in that sense: a revelation of life. Women have had a fruitful influence on my music. And as you can see, there is a votive lamp hanging over the picture of the Virgin Mary in my lounge here. I don't want to say any more on that topic.

- Are you attracted by Catholicism?

- Yes, I feel attracted by its ceremonies, by the cult of the Mother, and Catholic church music is just wonderful.

- Why are there so few women composers?

- They are not able to work things out in detail... they lack the overall view. They are to much caught up in the web of their own impressions. They lack the ability to judge motives... this is also true in other areas of life... they create confusion rather than concentration.

Do you compose as if in a vision?

- Yes, I suppose so... I see what I want to do as a picture, and the music develops of its own accord.

- What about your latest composition: The Great Master Cometh?

- I did not think specifically of Christ, but of life itself - life moving towards its completion, out towards the great unknown.

- Will you continue to live in this country?

- A lot of things attract me abroad. I have met with such wonderful understanding in the world outside, but I would prefer to remain at home. I have a dream of becoming the organist at Marmorkirken. I have applied for many churches, but have always been passed by, even though I was the preferred candidate.

- Why?

- Hidden string-pulling.

- Do we have any good organists?

- Oh, yes. Laub and Mogens Wøldike. I really would like to go to Marmorkirken. It was there that I heard music for the first time, and that experience is like a heavenly vision for me. I was three years old, and my mother took me there one summer morning... That day I was initiated into the beautiful realm of music, and I would so much like my own music to fill that church some day... That church stands for me as an artistic expression of my own longings and dreams...

[Signed] Christian Houmark.