Monday, 14 April 2014

The Nightingale String Quartet - Rued Langgaard - String Quartets volume 2

Not knowing the difference between a major forth or a Major Tom, things do not bode well for this post. However, here I go...

Oak and willow bent. Bronte and Hardy. Romance rides a dark horse. Across the moors Heathcliffe sullen waits. Bittersweet the melodies flow. Here is the music of a man the world of music forgot. Recaptured now, represented in all its glorious textures and colours by this spunky quartet. Four Danes interpreting fellow countryman Rued Langgaard's string quartets. .

What is quite incredible, or appears so to me, is for four relatively young musicians too so ably interpret such a long overlooked composers works. How do they begin? Yes, there is the notation of course but is that sufficient to form a mental image of how this music should sound?
If the composer is Beethoven or Mozart then by virtue of their popularity, by the number of recordings made, the performances were given, a sense of how it should be presented must be already there. Sort of like a guideline by which the musician knows how far the composer wanted free interpretation to go, With Beethoven not very far one assumes but the reverse with Mozart. who liked his music to be improvised or, at least, to be played with personal flourishes thrown in. Rued Langgaard's work remained virtually unknown after his death in June 1952 until some plucky soul rediscovered him somewhere around 1968. Even so, the unearthing process seemed slow at first but then as more and more people begun to hear this romantic balm, and with his symphony, 'Music of the Spheres' being performed for the first time at the London Proms in 2010, so Langgaard's reputation posthumously grew. 

To be honest I am still unsure of 'Music of the Spheres'. It seems to take its influence from Wagner and Strauss (Richard, not those god awful waltz family) and neither of those gents 'rocks my boat.' I can think of far better ways to spend fourteen hours than listening to some chap wax lyrical about his ring. I mean, can you conceive of anything so odd?

What I like about this album, the second in a trilogy and beaten into second place last year by the wondrous 'Quercus', is its ability to woo then fly then run with some complex melodies and equally complex time signatures and yet still remain listenable. It really is romantic music but unlike some, wishy-washy at best, other works, Mendelssohn's Piano Quartet springs to mind, has spunk, fire in its belly and drive. 

I suppose, in very much a layman's terms, there is a lyrical quality, a deep commitment to passion and the fleeting swift burst of romance with a desire to experiment. The music roars and soars, it swings from deeply melancholic as the cello basks in stygian light before it takes flighty swerves off the violin.

If this music  were wine it would be a range of glasses filled with burgundy's, sparkling whites. Rosé's  and all from wooden caskets kept dark and secret for nigh on a century. Such is the range of flavours found here.

I confess, I have a great affection for string quartets, probably more for them than orchestral works or, heaven help us opera with which, by and large with several exceptions, I find clumsy, awkward with lyrics as bizarre as green men with furry pizzles. Quartets of any sort I enjoy, I think, because they resemble a folk, rock or jazz band. They are intimate recordings. I like this album, I like it very much.

Still I wonder though how these young ladies, Josefine Dalsgaard (violin), Gunvor Sihm (violin), Marie Louise Broholt Jensen (viola) and Louisa Schwab (cello), have managed to make such grown-up music, such a mature sound?

I am unbelievably excited by the prospect of the third album in this trilogy but also by the possibility of more recordings, future performances from these girls. Fingers crossed their next project is one that features Denmark's Nancy Dalberg's (the first female Dane to compose a symphony) three string quartets. Such a mouth watering thought.

"...His music is fascinating for its mood swings and stylistic unpredictability. In just one movement there can be changes galore and nothing seems to fit, but keep listening and there are many rewards waiting in the wings."

For those of you unwilling to fork out cash on something unheard then why not try Spotify? The irritating lady who leaps in from time to time aside it is a good way to hear new stuff.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog