Views and Comments 1917-91

What did the music historians write about Langgaard?

"Rud Langgaard's art could offer a rich source of materials for thorough investigation and consideration; [With] his incredibly mature mastery of his techniques at an early age [...] and his fidelity to his own inner emotions [... we can] with some justification expect him to make a permanent impact on Danish music [...].
For Rud Langgaard's artistic motto is "Lift up your hearts!" ["Sursum corda"]. Up towards a cleansing and a renewal through the art of music!
To what degree, however, he will be able to fill out the forms with a content which will be able to lift, or even press, hearts upwards through the force of conviction and genius, remains as yet in the lap of the gods, and of the future [...], but that in him we find the seeds of something far out of the ordinary, there can, after what he has created up to the present, be not the slightest doubt."

Gerhardt Lynge in Danske Komponister i det 20. Aarhundredes Begyndelse, 1917 (Danish Composers at the Beginning of the 20th Century, 1917)

"Langgaard [...] masters the real and formal elements of music in a way both beautifully dimensioned and yet free; in addition he would seem to possess a sensitive and poetic musical talent, which has in a wonderful way the ability to listen to the deeper experiences of the human soul; so far [he] has proved strong enough to steer clear of this country's cliques and schools, and there is no doubt that we have the right to expect from his hand a remarkable and distinctive musical production in the time to come."

Erik Abrahamsen in Dansk Biografisk Haandleksikon, bd. 2, 1923 (Hand Lexicon of Danish Biography, Vol. 2, 1923)

"The critics should cease to hunt down this strange animal, so much apart that it has to be pursued, for it presents no danger, and no white-winged swan will grow out of this ugly duckling; and yet it is an alien bird in the farmyard; it is hunted ruthlessly and screeches at all around it; yet even so it would surely be worth our while to take a closer look at it when it gains enough respite to preen its feathers, for there are colours in them [...]"

Richard Hove in Dansk Musik Tidsskrift, 1932 (Danish Music Journal, 1932)

"His first concerts made him a much-praised object of attention, and great expectations were attached to his name; however, the almost inconceivable technical mastery with which he managed large Romantic orchestra even as a boy was not always matched by those corresponding qualities of self-criticism and mental concentration which are required to create works of art of lasting value."

Richard Hove i Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, bd. 13, 1938 (Hand Lexicon of Danish Biography, Vol. 13, 1938)

"In his search for modes of expression he is not afraid to face the challenge of the bizarre or of the greatest dimensions. He is a consummate technician, for whom the musical handicraft connected with the Late-Romantic tradition conceals no secrets. In his first symphonies [...] he was close to Wagner's Niebelungenring. Yet they differ from the neo-German symphonies by their strict chastity, their total renunciation of any sentimental currying of favour. It would not be far wide of the mark to characterise Rued Langgaard as a Danish Gustav Mahler [...]
Possessing the qualities referred to here, it is no wonder that Rued Langgaard stands as a lonely figure in modern Danish music. And yet at the same time his works excite interest, both on account of the original and strange personality that speaks through them, and of the great ability that lies behind them ..."

Vagn Kappel in Musikkens Mestre. Danske Komponister, 1947 (Masters of Music. Danish Composers, 1947)

[...] even though Langgaard as a creative artist in the nature of the case became, and remained, a lonely figure, he could not be ignored. His works were played, and they will not cease to be heard because he has now gone to his rest. As a composer he occupies, despite everything, a not unimportant position in Danish music.
Langgaard was not accustomed to external recognition. Nor did he welcome it when it came from people or circles with whom he did not sympathise, and as he never hesitated to state his unreserved and honest opinion, his friends on Parnassus were but few. Yet in all quarters people understood that he was an honest man, both as an artist and a person, and out of respect for his uequivocal opinions and his absolute contempt for compromise, even his most bitter opponent will be prepared, now that he is dead, to lower the sword."

Niels Friis in his obituary in Berlingske Tidende, 1952

[Langgaard's] sometimes hysterical attacks on those around him both irritated and amused many people, and as a result there was no respect either for the composer or his works, a situation which the uneven quality - to put it mildly - of his prolific production did nothing to improve. It is possible that we can identify yet another reason:
Despite his great originality as a person, Langgaard's musical idiom was not especially unique, at least not in terms of melody, and it was Langgaard's unhappy fate to be compared with the master of melody of the time, the genius, Carl Nielsen.
It can be said - to use a somewhat worn cliché - that Langgaard was born at a bad time; that in a small country where aesthetic centralism was possible, ideas diametrically opposed to the conventional wisdom were doomed to failure. Yet it may well be that the mood today, at a time when all that is expressive and "romantic" is once more imbued with a positive value, is ripe for a reappraisal of this "tragic case " in Danish music in the years between the World Wars."

Bo Wallner in Vår tids musik i Norden, 1968 (Contemporary Music in Scandinavia, 1968)

"If his production had been more consistent, he and his music would never have been so thoroughly rejected as was the case. [...] In the last analysis, these inconsistencies and irregularities in his production, not only from composition to composition, but also within the individual composition, were probably the main reason why people had such ambivalent reactions to his music.
In the 1960's, a wholehearted effort was made to reach a more balanced assessment of Langgaard's oeuvre. A broader basis on which to judge his work was certainly achieved, but even so it has become clear that it will not be possible to reach a radically revised view. He stands now where he has always stood - a mystifyingly unique phenomenon in Danish music ".

Nils Schiørring in Musikkens Historie i Danmark, bd. 3, 1978 (The History of Music in Denmark, Vol. 3, 1978)

"Langgaard's great gifts and his uniqueness went unrecognised for a long time, both during his life and after his death. A renewed interest in the values inherent in his music arrived in the wake of the aesthetic metamorphosis, in musical terms, brought about in this country by the avant-garde music which appeared, late on the scene, in the 1960's. Langgaard has achieved another kind of contemporary relevance through the kinship that has been discovered between him and various foreign composers, also long forgotten, who mark the transition between Romanticism and 20th century Modernism."

Bo Marschner in Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, bd. 8, 1981 (Pocket Lexicon of Danish Biography, Vol. 8, 1981)

"[...] as yet the general picture of him is so ambiguous, that it is hard to know whether the interest shown in his oeuvre is something other, and more, than simply an offshoot of the current fashion for rediscovering the Late Romantic period."

Knud Ketting in Gyldendals Musikhistorie, bd. 4, 1984 (Gyldendal's History of Music, Vol. 4, 1984)

"In Denmark there are still a lot of polemics about whether Rued Langgaard was a visionary innovator whose artistic stature can be compared to Carl Nielsen. [...]
This religious and philosophical idealist was undoubtedly conservative by nature, true to the Romantic ideals concerning the purpose of art and the means to achieve it, but at the same time he developed such a personal approach to music that now and then he wrote pieces of a uniquely original quality. [...]
His long and variegated series of symphonies [...] contains [...] such a richness of elemental creative force and technical brilliance, that Langgaard undoubtedly deserves his position as the great, demonic and impenetrably complex counterpoint to Carl Nielsen."

Karl Aage Rasmussen in Gads Musikhistorie, 1991 (Gad's History of Music, 1991)