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Sfærernes Musik (Music of the Spheres)

Sfærernes Musik (1916-18) is one of the most original compositions in Danish music in the first half of the 20th century. It is so unusual that not until 50 years after its composition was it recognised as a work of deep originality, pointing forward to later developments.

For Sfærernes Musik, apart from the main orchestra with organ and choir, Langgaard prescribed a "distant orchestra" and a soprano soloist. He also called for a piano with the lid removed, enabling the pianist to play glissandos directly on the strings.

Langgaard himself had this to say about the work: "In Sfærernes Musik I have in the darkness and despair of night completely abandoned any sort of motif, planned structure, form or coherence. It is 'music' cloaked in a black veil and the impenetrable mists of death..." (undated note).

Langgaard stated that a work like Sfærernes Musik can only be created once, and never again - and nor in fact did he ever compose anything comparable to it.

The work was favourably received when performed for the first time at Karlsruhe in 1921. One commentator was of the opinion that the work might start a trend, but when performed in Berlin a year later the work was not an unadulterated success, and went thereafter into oblivion. However, it was one of the few major works by Langgaard to be published as a printed score as early as 1919.

Listen to excerpts from the work.

The title page from the revised version of af Sfærernes Musik, bearing the title "Nirvana" and a text by Nietzsche. Note the crossed-out subtitle, "En Feberfantasi (Kulturundergangsmusik)" ("A Feverish Fantasy (Decline of Culture Music)". Only the title page of this version is extant.