B     D   E   F   G   H     J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R     T   U     W   X   Y     Æ   Ø   Å 


Rued Immanuel Langgaard

Copenhagen 28.07.1993 - Ribe, 10.07.1952

Langgaard at 50 - in 1943

Rued Immanuel Langgaard was born in Copenhagen, 28th July 1893 and showed fantastic musical abilities. Both his parents were pianists and he quickly leaned that instrument and also the organ impressing Edward Grieg in 1905, when Langgaard made his debut as an organist in the Marble Church

13 year old Rued Langgaard at the
organ in the Marble Church.

He also quickly began to compose and had his works performed, but as he grew up he became the 'Ugly Duckling' in Danish music. There were two reasons for this. First of all he didn't follow the normal line of development and thus he artistically became the antithesis of Carl Nielsen who was the great name in Danish music. Secondly he became - what was considered a strange character due to this isolation, and he ended up as a very bitter and forgotten man dying in Ribe, on the 10th July 1952. 

Langgaard at his organ in the Cathedral of Ribe

Ribe is located almost as far from Copenhagen as possible and his employment there as organist had its reasons. Carl Nielsen was far to great a man and composer to be bothered with competitors, but Nielsen's pupils - or disciples - showed a direct hatred toward Langgaard - trying to harm him in any way possible. So a lobby led by one organist Mogens Wöldike - who was organ consultant for the Church Ministry and thus a dangerously influential man - assured that Langgaard would never get a post as organist in Copenhagen or anywhere nearby - an early example of Berufsverbot. But finally Wöldike was more or less forced to give Langgaard a job and decided that it should be as far from the metropole as possible. So Langgaard was appointed organist at the Cathedral in Ribe - but to a reduced salary. After this Wöldike said: Well - now we got rid of him. Thus Langgaard came to hate Carl Nielsen even more - but - alas - he pointed his gun at the wrong person. Today Mogens Wöldike is totally forgotten - both as organist, conductor and composer whereas Langgaard's music attracts more and more attention - even by composers like György Ligeti. As Agatha Christie once wrote: God's mill grinds slowly - but fine. (Look at the appendix for a wonderful story about Mogens Wöldike and the great conductor Fritz Busch).
Had it not been for a couple of intelligent conductors - among these Launy Grøndahl - Langgaard's music would also have been totally boycotted by the Danish National Radio at their concerts and transmission - and this has in fact continued after his death. Only 10 years after
Danacord's  great and pioneering set of his complete (16) symphonies in 1992 did the Danish National Radio make up their minds to make a similar series - having now suddenly discovered the forgotten composer. Well better late than never - thus making Hans Christian Andersen's story about the duckling more up to date than ever. 
Now we can at least hear Langgaard's music - but one loss is irretrievable. Every Sunday the Danish National Radio has a transmission of the service in some church in Denmark and during Langgaard's years in Ribe several services were transmitted from there. But never even once did it occur to anyone to record the service so that we could hear his organ playing which by all accounts was quite exceptional. There is one piece of film from the bishops' procession at the 1000 year's jubilee of Christianity in Scandinavia - but of course - that is a silent film.
It didn't go much better with the first record of Langgaard's organ music - played on his organ - before it was rebuilt. The master tape is simply lost. 
By the way Langgaard never wrote any piano music for the left hand alone - but one of the pieces in his Insectarium is played by the right hand alone - so the idea of single-hand playing was not unknown to him.

For a definitive biography, list of works, where to acquire scores, books and records/CDs  etc. - click 
on the link below to see the Langgaard scholar par excellence Bendt Viinholdt Nielsen's Langgaard 
web-site which is hereby enthusiastically recommended.

Bendt Viinholdt Nielsen


Photos of Langgaard from the Det kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library), Copenhagen  www.kb.dk

Back to Siegfried Langgaard