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Symphony No. 6


Section of a preliminary draft of Symphony No. 6, composed in 1919-20. Reproduced with the permission of the Society for the Publication of Danish Music.

Symphony No. 6, consisting of one movement, was originally untitled. The work was inspired by Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 "The Inextinguishable" (1916), but Langgaard went a step further and anticipated in places the new- realistic music of Paul Hindemith, his contemporary of the same age. Shortly after the completion of the symphony Langgaard went as far as to say that he found the major-minor system restrictive in relation to what he wanted to express, that is, extension, expansion and "the boundless longing".

Later, by giving it the title "Det Himmelrivende" ("The Heaven-Rending") he turned the music into something more expressly religious, a cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil. It was, he said, "the sharp knife-edge of the shimmering, golden heavens in dissonance... [it] is a state, not 'absolute music'..." (note from 1949).

Langgaard was proud of the work, yet at the same time in his later years irritated by the fact that he had allowed himself to be inspired by Carl Nielsen's music. In 1944 (two years before the manuscript was published) he wrote in his manuscript score: "If it absolutely always has to be Carl Nielsen, well, then we can also do it my way..."

Listen to an excerpt from the symphony .