LANGGAARD: In Ténebras Exteriores (Buried in Hell), BVN 334 (1947). Messis (Drama for Orgel I Tre Aftener), BVN 228.
NORGARD: Seadrift. Nova Genitura. Fons Laetitiae.
"Carmina Burana" - Medieval Songs from the
Codex Burana (13th Century)
This site already has mentioned a number of brilliant recordings of symphonic music by Danish composer Rued Langgaard (1893-1952): Symphony No. 1 (REVIEW), Symphonies 2 and 3 (REVIEW), Symphonies 12 and 13 (REVIEW), Symphonies 15 and 16 (REVIEW), and various orchestral works (REVIEW). Now we have another challenging masterpiece, Messis (The Time of Harvest), described as "a visionary organ drama of the end of the world." After completing all of his symphonies, Langgaard focused on just this one work, beginning in 1932. Most of it was written 1935-1937, some revisions as late as 1952. There are three sections: Messis, Juan (referring to the Gospel of John), and Buried in Hell, followed by a postlude. This unique work is one of the most extensive works ever written for solo organ, and seldom performed. Langgaard's organ music is generally sedate, with occasional patches of dissonance. Even the earthquake depicted is rather tame—and it is followed by a brief chorale of heavenly peace sung by Vor Frue Kantori, their only appearance in the entire work. Messis is preceded by In Ténebras Exteriores, a 19-minute work he composed earlier, some of which he used in Messis.This is a most unusual recording showing another side of Langgaard during the final decade of his life. Flemming Dreisig, organist at Copenhagen Cathedral for some years, plays that instrument on this recording made mostly in April 2008. As usual with Da Capo, audio is first rate. Comprehensive program notes describe the music in detail.
Recently this site mentioned a Da Capo SACD of two fascinating symphonies by Danish composer Per Norgard (REVIEW). Another SACD offers some of the composer's works for soprano and orchestra. Three of these are written for soprano and small chamber ensemble, one (Fons Laetitiae) for soprano and harp. CD notes say all of this music is "a universe of Marian gentleness, heavenly beauty and redeeming joy." Well, not quite. It all sounds pretty much the same—the high soprano voice floating over soft accompaniment in a most placid way. Soprano Bente Vist has an association with the composer: she gave the premiere of Fons Laetitiae in 2001. She displays uncommon agility in singing the awkward intervals and countless stratospoheric notes. Complete texts are provided along with profuse program notes, but I imagine most listeners will find much more of interest in Norgard's symphonic works, particularly those mentioned on this site. Audio quality is outstanding, as always is the case with Da Capo releases.
Early last year Harmonia Mundi issued a CD of Carmina Burana, the famous collection of medieval songs from the Codex Burana performed by the René Clemencis Consort (Harmonia Mundi 195335). Now on the Oehms label we have the same group's superb surround sound Carmina Burana in the original version. SACD sound is remarkably clear, if not particularly "surround," and the performance is outstanding—it's easy to understand why Orff was so attracted to this music. This is a wonderful release.
R.E.B. (August 2009)