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The impression of the work, though, is far from stark. The orchestral sounds, interpreted with total commitment by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard, are as opulent as anything Strauss thought up for the court of Herod the tetrarch or for the doomed Agamemnon in murderous Mycenae. The 1920s were inhospitable to such music, but if anyone deserved it after 1914-18, it was surely Antichrist. He seems now permanently to stalk the world in ever-threatening ways the least satisfactory pope could never have conceived. Antikrist is a powerful work, gripping equally to hear and watch.

Sten Byriel as Lucifer, summons the Antichrist. DVD screenshot © 2005 Dacapo Records
Sten Byriel as Lucifer, summons the Antichrist. DVD screenshot © 2005 Dacapo Records

Antikrist was first staged in Innsbruck six years ago. The Danes made amends with this performance 50 years after Langgaard's death. The Royal Danish Theatre is at last involved, but the setting is the vast space of a Riding School, with the orchestra prudently surrounded by battlements against the developments on stage. Staffan Holm as stage director has made of his cast a black-clad sect, led by an Ibsenesque Lucifer in the person of Sten Byriel. His first task, impressively done, is to summon Antichrist [watch -- Prologue, chapter 2, 0:00-1:34]. Physically Antichrist does not appear, but in a blaze of sound Morten Suurballe as the spoken Voice of God permits him to range the world and relish its decadence [listen -- Prologue, chapter 2, 4:38-6:10].

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Copyright © 3 August 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


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