A Biographical Multimedia Mosaic...

Siegfried Langgaard (1852-1914)

Rued Langgaard's father, Siegfried Langgaard, was a pianist, a composer and a philosopher of music. On account of bad nerves and periods of oppression he was forced to abandon a career as a concert pianist and concentrate on teaching. For 33 years he taught at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen.

Siegfried Langgaard had been a pupil of Niels W. Gade and J.P.E. Hartmann. After his concert debut, and on Gade's recommendation, he studied under Franz Liszt in Weimar in the summers of 1878 and 79.


In this letter from Liszt to Siegfried Langgaard - dated 7 Martz 1886, shortly before Liszt's death - Langgaard's piano concerto is described as a powerful, heroic work. The piano concerto was printed, but has never been publicly performed. Siegfried Langgaard's compositions consist almost exclusively of songs and pieces for the piano.

Siegfried Langgaard's ideas on the philosophy of music were published in a short monograph entitled Lidt om Musikkens Mission (A Brief Note on the Mission of Music) (1901). In the years leading up to his death in 1914 he had expanded his ideas to fill three large manuscripts - a total of 2140 pages! Two of these manuscripts bear the common title Om Kunstarternes Samklang i Verdensharmonien (On the Concord of the Arts with the Harmony of the Universe).

This is an apologia for a romantic, religious view of art, directed at Carl Nielsen, who in an article from 1909 entitled Ord, Musik og Programmusik (Words, Music and Programme Music) had presented his simple and earthbound view of the history of music. Siegfried Langgaard's writings reflect the pervasive influence of Liszt's and Wagner's thoughts about art and religion, mixed with Theosophical ideas and the inspiration of symbolism.

The picture of the world seen through the philosophy of music that is presented here would seem in all important points to have been taken over by his son, even though in periods Rued Langgaard's music went in other completely different directions.