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p e r m o r t e n a b r a h a m s e n
:p h o t o g r a p h y
Thomas Dausgaard The Danish conductor tells Caroline gill why he is championing an underrated great
It’s all very rock‘n’roll. Thomas Dausgaard has just finished the day with a recording session in Copenhagen but started it with one in Sweden, followed by a lunchtime flit to Denmark in a private plane in order to start the sessions here promptly at 5.30. By rights, when we start our interview at 10pm Dausgaard should be cross-eyed with tiredness, or at least in need of a restorative cup of tea, but instead he’s bouncing around on invisible springs, eager to chat more about the dual projects that are keeping him shuttling between his two permanent posts: chief conductor of both the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.
is really important in most of our music, and in Langgaard that’s not the defining issue”), and the idiosyncracies in his personality – his high voice, strange hairstyles and odd behaviour (Dausgaard says this just as the room goes dark and he suddenly jumps across the room to reactivate the movement-sensitive lights in his office, a synchronicity that makes us both laugh) – may have contributed to the wholesale rejection of his music which lasted from his late teens until long after his death.
“It takes generations to change because for a long time his music was considered amateurish, with characteristic sudden changes which do nothing to smooth the music from one idea to another. You could see from the scores that he just took scissors and cut it up, going from style to style, from cut to cut.”
‘Langgaard spent years banging
It may well have been the beauty in Langgaard’s music that led many of Nielsen’s devotees to dismiss him: the distinguishing battle between good and
Dausgaard’s voice is so overflowing with enthusiasm he sounds constantly as if he is about to burst into laughter. It is infectious, and a far cry from the introverted character of Rued Langgaard, Dausgaard’s fellow Dane and the under-exposed composer whose late work Music of the Spheres Dausgaard is in Copenhagen to record (this evening’s session has been focused on The Time of the End, a filler that will occupy part of the Music of the Spheres disc). Listening to the sessions and what little of Langgaard is currently available on disc, it is hard to appreciate why his music was so fundamentally ignored by the establishment, especially after his early symphonies were premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic when he was just 16. Dausgaard agrees.
his head against a brick wall’
“We’re a small country,” he says. “We have few people with natural talent like Langgaard. Really few. When you look at his works as a teenager, like the First Symphony, it’s simply a masterful creation. But even when I was studying, in the 1980s, I experienced a strong feeling that those who had been students of Carl Nielsen had a very definite say about certain things, and somehow I could see that it could prevent other people coming through with ideas.” Dausgaard also suggests that Langgaard’s non-Danish style (“it’s the play of light that evil running through his music is manifested in an undulating thread of beauty and ugliness which makes Langgaard’s isolated life seem all the more poignant. Dausgaard speaks with sympathy, observing that the composer spent years trying to make his work acceptable, banging his head against a professional brick wall “until it hurt.” But now Dausgaard will bring the DNSO and Music of the Spheres to the Proms, shortly before he appears at the same event with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Schumann symphonies (which he has recorded as part of his “Opening Doors” project in Örebro).
“We will have this wonderful three-dimensionality in the orchestra, as well as another orchestra in the gallery, with soprano Inger Dam-Jensen and a small chorus,” he says. “I’m just so much looking forward to it.” G
Thomas Dausgaard’s recording of Rued Langgaard’s Music of the Spheres is released by Dacapo on July 26
GRAMOPHONE august 2010 19