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Recording of the month

A powerful work

Rued Langgaard's
opera 'Antikrist' -
investigated by
ROBERT ANDERSON

'... interpreted with total commitment ...'

Rued Langgaard: Antikrist. © 2005 Dacapo Records

The Antichrist idea has a long and distinguished history. Conceived as a figure to gather up the powers of evil in a final onslaught on God, he has a significant Jewish background. The slippery Antiochus IV of Syria and even decapitated Pompey provided a pattern in their desecration of the Temple. He gets scant mention in Christian scripture, but his sinister presence looms, notably in Revelation. Nero's ferocious persecutions qualified him for the post until it became manifest that the Second Coming and end of the world, despite sin and seismic disturbance, was not yet. In the Middle Ages an unusually disreputable pope or emperor might seem to fit the bill, but for Protestants it was quite simply the papacy.

Thomas Dausgaard conducting the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in 'Antikrist'. DVD screenshot © 2005 Dacapo Records
Thomas Dausgaard conducting the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in 'Antikrist'. DVD screenshot © 2005 Dacapo Records

Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) is hardly a name to conjure with here. Germany took some notice of him both pre- and post-World War I, Denmark very little; and the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen obstinately and repeatedly turned down Antikrist. The libretto, perhaps stranger than the Apocalypse, was the stumbling block. The work was written near the start of the 1920s and revised towards their end. It almost out-Wagners Wagner in its self-denying rejection of vocal ensemble for the most part and chorus. The wayward characters deliver their message in stark isolation.

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Copyright © 3 August 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK

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