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LANGGAARD: Antichrist - Church Opera in 6 Scenes

"A religious mystery opera - - a magnificent doomsday vision - - moral decay of modernity" (Da Capo)


Sten Byriel Lucifer; Anne Margrethe Dahl Spirit of Mystery; Helene Gjerris Echo of Spirit of Mystery ; Helene Gjerris Mystical Voice; Poul Elming The Mouth Speaking Great Things ; Susanne Resmark Despondency; Camilla Nylund The Great Whore; Johnny van Hal The Lie ; Jon Ketilsson The Scarlet Beast ; Morten Suurballe The Voice of God; John Lundgren Hate;
Danish National Symphony Orchestra; Danish National Choir/Thomas Dausgaard

Da Capo CD 6.220523-24 [2 CDs, 93 mins]


Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) was a loner and eccentric, who has attracted attention and esteem posthumously. But Langaard's personality and poor social skills were continually against him. For a good introduction click here onto Ecstatic Outsider, which summarises his many failures - a "problem child" of Danish musical life who failed even to secure a post as a church organist, despite having reckoned to be one of the most gifted organists Denmark had ever known.

Langgaard failed repeatedly to drum up interest in Antikrist, his magnum opus; it was rejected thrice by Royal Danish Theatre from 1923-1925, the chief stumbling block the libretto by the composer himself, dubbed "highly obscure" and "completely foolish".


Many operas have eventually survived that sort of resistance (e.g. Tippett's). Its mystical, allegorical text, with protagonists called Despondency, Hatred and The Great Whore would have been as off-putting now as then. The music however turns out to be involving and compelling, and it is sung well by the summer 2002 cast, save for an over-parted heroic tenor as The Scarlet Beast, who copes valiantly if not without some strain. Antikrist does not lack individuality despite bringing to mind the Wagner of Parsifal, Strauss (Salome), and Bruckner and Nielsen fleetingly; those mentioned to give an idea of the sort of thing to anticipate. You can listen to sound bites from an earlier recording, made by Tirol Landestheater in German (Danacord 517).

Da Capo's presentation is exemplary, with a series of essays to fill in the genesis and "fate" of this unique opera, its "characters" and "action", history and "vibrant background" plus, of course the full libretto in Danish, German and English, all printed with admirable clarity for easy reading and following. It is really no more obscure and intractable that some of e.g. Wagner and Tippett, and Messiaen's St. Francois D'Assise, which have gradually made their way into the repertoire.

Having enjoyed listening to these recently released CDs, I felt that Antikrist really was not destined for the theatre and that Langgaard had been banging his head against a theatrical brick wall with so non-dramatic a creation. There is no action, the choir has only a small part to play, and the characters are no more individuated than those to be found in such choral works as Mahler's Eighth Symphony and Franz Schmidt's great The Book with Seven Seals of a decade later, which finally made it to The Proms at the beginning of the Millennium. The Royal Albert Hall could be the place for Antichrist to make its mark in UK, and it deserves a chance.

Only after writing these notes and turning to Da Capo's website to capture the CDs' cover image did I discover, to my surprise, that this same performance had been released also on DVD! This will surely merit a further reconsideration by Musical Pointers of Langgaard's Antikrist.

° Rued Langgaard "About his music"


° Schmidt Notre Dame and piano concerto


P.S. The DVD version has now been received and is a clear prime recommendation for purchase. A separate note will follow.






© Peter Grahame Woolf