The Sacrifice

Messiaen, Debussy, J.S. Bach and Langgaard


Rued Langgaard Festival 30st August – 2rd September 2018

Thursday 30/8


The Opening of the Festival

4.30 pm The Cathedral Square


The opening of the festival. Susanne Nordenbæk, director of Industrial Development, Esbjerg.

Dénise Beck, soprano; Clemens Hund-Göschel, piano; Quartet Vela, DR VokalEnsemblet med Marcus Creed

Music by Debussy, Messiaen, Langgaard and J.S. Bach



May the King’s honour increase + Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus

7 pm St. Catharine’s Cloisters

In Syrinx Debussy brings us into contact with Greek mythology, where the god of shepherds Pan (half goat – half human) expresses sorrow over the loss of the nymph Syrinx. In his suites for solo cello and flute Bach was on the other hand inspired by the court dances of the baroque. The result is, however, above time and place and is optimistic music possessing universal beauty.


Bach wrote Musikalisches Opfer as a gift for Frederik the Great of Prussia, who was a great lover of music. In his canons Bach pays homage to the king by among other things writing one in which rising pitches symbolize the king’s increasing honour.


In Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus the composer and Catholic Olivier Messiaen meditates on the child of God in the crib. In richly coloured music Messiaen becomes one with the contemplations which God, the Virgin Mary, the Angels, the Magi, time, stillness, the star and the cross direct to the Infant Jesus. Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus is a major work in 20th century piano music. Both by virtue of the technical demands and as a result of the spiritual richness the work possesses.


Claude Debussy: Syrinx for solo flute. (1913) (3’)


Johann Sebastian Bach: Super-suite (34’)

An alternation of movements from Suite for cello no. 3 in C major  BWV 1009 and Partita in A minor for solo flute  BWV 1013 (1722-23)

  • Prélude (cello)
  • Allemande (Flute)
  • Allemande (Cello)
  • Courante (flute)
  • Courante (cello)
  • Sarabande (flute)
  • Sarabande (cello)
  • Bourée anglaise (flute)
  • Bourées I & II (cello)
  • Gigue (cello)


Johann Sebastian Bach: 5 canons on the Royal Theme (8’). Excerpts from Musikalisches Opfer (1747)

  • Canon perpetuus super Thema Regium
  • Canon a 2 Violini in unisone
  • Canon a 2 per Motum contrarium
  • Canon a 2 per Augmentationem, contrario Motu
  • “May the King’s happiness grow during the increasing note lengths”
  • Canon a 2 per Tonos
  • “May the King’s Honour increase through the rising modulations”


Joachim Becerra Thomsen, flute

Toke Møldrup, cello

Tobias Nilsson, countertenor.


Interval with a glass of red wine in the cloister yard


Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus) (1944) (114’)


  1. Regard du Père – Contemplation of the Father
  2. Regard de l’étoile – Contemplation of the star
  • L’échange – The exchange
  1. Regard de la Vierge –Contemplation of the Virgin
  2. Regard du Fils sur le Fils – Contemplation of the Son upon the Son
  3. Par Lui tout a été fait – Through Him everything was made
  • Regard de la Croix – Contemplation of the Cross
  • Regard des hauteurs –Contemplation of the heights
  1. Regard du temps – Contemplation of time
  2. Regard de l’Esprit de joie – Contemplation of the joyful Spirit
  3. Première communion de la Vierge – The Virgin’s first communion.
  • La parole toute puissante – The all-powerful Word
  • Noël – Christmas
  • Regard des Anges –Contemplation of the Angels
  1. Le baiser de l’Enfant-Jésus – The kiss of the Infant Jesus
  • Regard des prophètes, des bergers et des Mages – Contemplation of the prophets, the shepherds and the Magi
  • Regard du silence – Contemplation of silence
  • Regard de l’Onction terrible – Contemplation of the awesome Anointing
  • Je dors, mais mon Coeur veille – I sleep, but my heart keeps watch
  1. Regard de l’Église d’amour – Contemplation of the Church of love


Kristoffer Hyldig, piano


Langgaard Lounge

10.30 pm Quedens Gaard


Meet some of the day’s atists and enjoy a glass of beer from Ribe Brewery.


A presentation of Rued Langgaard Porter 2018 by the brewer Lars Nielsen, Ribe Brewery.


Friday 31/8

From my heart I long

11.40 am-12.15 pm Ribe Cathedral School

Rued Langgaard composed Variations on “From my heart I long” in memory of his father who died when Langgaard was 20. It is said that Bach’s Goldberg Variations were written as a solace for a sleepless Russian count. It is uncertain whether the story is true, but the music is among the most beautiful and best-loved works by Bach.


Rued Langgaard: Variations on “From my heart I long” String quartet. BVN 71 (1914-15). Excerpts (10’)


J.S. Bach Goldberg Variations Excerpts. An adaptation by the Esbjerg Ensemble of Dimitri Sitkovetsky’s version for string trio. (10’)


Esbjerg Ensemble


The Sacrifice

3 pm Langgaard Salen

In his last film The Sacrifice, which was filmed on Gotland with the Swedish character actor playing the leading role, the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovskij creates a modern hell-fire sermon, which not least by virtue of Bach’s music rises into a sphere of great beauty.


Andrei Tarkovskij: The Sacrifice (1986) (142’)


The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

8 pm The Cathedral

The rarely performed mystery play The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian set to music by Debussy and with the text by the Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzios is a musically dramatic major work with magical scenes, where we follow the Christian martyr Sebastian in an inner and outer journey towards paradise. With music which is uniquely sophisticated and an ecstatic text in the borderland of human existence, The Holy Sebastian’s Martyrdom is ideally suited to the evocative surroundings in Ribe Cathedral.


The concert begins with the original prelude to Rued Langgaard’s doomsday opera Antichrist, which has not been played in Denmark since 1926. At that time the prelude was described in the Danish press as “a rock which pointed mystically towards heaven”.


Rued Langgaard: Antichrist Prelude (original version) BVN 170:1 (1921-22 Rev. 1923-26) (13’)

Claude Debussy: Le Martyre de Saint Sebastian (The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian) (Gabriele d’Annunzio) (1911) (75’)

Mystery play for soloists, chorus and orchestra in five “mansions”.

The Scandinavian première of the new version (2009)


  1. La Cour des lys – The Court of Lilies
  2. La Chambre magique – The Magic Chamber
  • Le Concile des faux dieux – The Council of the False Gods
  1. Le Laurier blessé – The Wounded Laurel
  2. Le Paradis – Paradise


The saint (Narrator): Helen Gjerris

The twin Marc: Hanna Maria Strand (contralto)

The twin Marcellien: Rikke Lender (contralto)

The virgin Érigones voice, heavenly voice, a voice, Sebastian’s soul: Dénise Beck (soprano)

DR VokalEnsemblet, the choir of Our Saviour’s Church

Sønderjyllands Symfoniorkester and Schleswig-Holsteinisches Sinfonieorchester

Conductor: Michael Schønwandt

Rehearsal of the choir of Our Saviour’s Church: Mikkel Andreassen

Translation of Gabriele d’Annunzio’s text: Monique Christiansen. Revised by Wenzel de Neergaard.


Lighting design: Lars Egegaard Sørensen

Production: Esben Tange


Langgaard Lounge

10.30 pm Quedens Gaard

Meet some of today’s artists, enjoy a glass of Rued Langgaard Porter from Ribe Brewery and listen to Humoreske for five wind instruments and side-drum, where beauty and devilry meet in an intense drama.


Rued Langgaard: Langgaard: Humoreske Sextet. Flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon and side-drum. BVN 176 (1922-23) (12’)


Musicians from the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus.


Saturday 1/9


The concept of sacrifice

10 am Langgaard Salen, Kannikegården

The concept of sacrifice in Christianity and modernity. With a sidelong glance at Karen Blixen.

Lecture by Jens Torkild Bak (50’)


Coffee in Kannikegården.


Alluring sounds

11.30 am

The concert begins with Den store Mester kommer (The great Master comes), which for Langgaard was a musical signature. In the motets which follow by Bach and Messiaen joy at being united with Christ stands at the centre. In Komm, Jesu, komm for double choir a world-weary soul rejoices at the prospect of soon being united with Jesus, and in O Sacrum Convivium! the Blessed Sacrament is celebrated, in which Christ is present.


In Langgaard’s three songs to texts of romantic poets from Norway and Denmark – where Langgaard imagines a melancholy universe of mountains – and in Messiaen’s Cinq Rechants which are founded on love songs from Peru and Ecuador as well as a medieval morning song, mysticism in nature and a longing for love play an important part.


Debussy loved the French nobleman Charles d’Orléans’ emancipated renaissance poems. In his Trois Chansons de Charles d’Orléans he depicts female beauty and ironizes over the rascally winter.


Rued Langgaard: Den store Mester kommer BVN 173 (1922) (2’)


Johann Sebastian Bach: Komm, Jesu, komm BWV 229 (1724) (10’)


Olivier Messiaen: O Sacrum Convivium! (O sacred banquet) (1929-37) (5’)


Rued Langgaard: Lokkende toner (J.S. Welhaven) BVN 112 (1916) (5’)

Rued Langgaard: Sæterjenten (Erik Bøgh) BVN 114 (1916) (3’)


Olivier Messiaen: Cinq Rechants (Five refrains) (1943-49) (20’)

  • Les amoureux s’envolent…

Ma première fois…

Ma robe d’amour…

Mon bouquet tout défait rayonne…

Tes yeux voyagent…


Rued Langgaard: Høstfuglen (Herman Wildenvey) BVN 141 A (1918) (9’)


Claude Debussy: Trois Chansons de Charles d’Orléans. (6’)

  • Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder! (1898)
  • Quand j’ai ouy le Tambourin (mezzo-soprano solo) (1908)
  • Yver, vous n’estes qu’en villain (1898)


DR VokalEnsemblet

Conductor: Marcus Creed


The Ascension

3.30 pm The Cathedral


Rued Langgaard played a small, exclusive selection of Bach’s works. One of them is Toccata in D minor, in which Bach shows himself from his most dramatic and appealing side.


In Messis Langgaard plays through a number of biblical themes connected with the harvest season – doomsday. In the third part we are in the kingdom of the dead, where the rich man envies the poor Lazarus, who after a despondent life goes to heaven.


Messiaen loved the organ and in the early work The Ascension we experience the instrument’s enormous range of expression from the serene alleluias from a soul that longs for heaven to Christ’s quiet prayer while he ascends towards his Father.


Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata in D minor BWV 565 (1707) (9’)


Rued Langgaard: Messis. Third Evening: Begravet i Helvede (Buried in hell) (1937-39) (21’)


  • Blev begravet (Was buried)

I dødsriget (In the kingdom of the dead)

  • Forbarm dig (Have mercy)
  • Kom i hu! Du har fået dit gode! (Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things)


Olivier Messiaen: L’Ascension (The Ascension) (1934) (24’)


  • Majesté du Christ demandant sa gloire à son Père (The majesty of Christ demanding its glory of the Father)
  • Alléluias sereins d’une âme qui desire le ciel (Serene alleluias of a soul that longs for heaven)
  • Transports de joie d’une âme devant la gloire du Christ qui est la sienne (Outbursts of joy from a soul before the glory of Christ which is its own glory)
  • Prière du Christ montant vers son Père (Prayer of Christ ascending towards his Father)


  • Kristian Krogsøe, organ


Spare us, Jesus! and Quartet to the End of Time

8 pm St. Catharine’s Church

Olivier Messiaen’s Theme and Variations are intense, passionate music written as a wedding present for Messiaen’s first wife, who was a violinist.


In the late Sonate no. 4 Parce nobis, Jesu! from 1949 Langgaard reveals himself in a magnificently absurd light. The music emits sparks between sections where the music is directed towards the celestial and there are passages where it is as though the devil has taken hold of the composer.


Messiaen’s Quartet to the End of Time was written during the Second World War in a German prison camp and is based on a vision of the Apocalypse where time disintegrates. Messiaen unfurls the music in all the colours of the rainbow and creates a completely new style which is founded on birdsong, stillness and eternal melodies.


Rued Langgaard: Andante Religioso BVN 407 (1950) (5’)


Olivier Messiaen: Theme and variations for violin and piano (1932) (10’)


Rued Langgaard: Sonate no. 4 Parce nobis, Jesu! (Spare us, Jesus!) (BVN 376) (1949) (20’)

  • Doux! Not fast
  • Prière
  • Scherzo Fast, elegant
  • Presto furioso
  • Finale Allegro


Gunvor Sihm, violin

Berit Johansen Tange, piano




Messiaen: Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps (Quartet for the End of Time) (1941) (50’)


                           I                          Liturgie de cristal – Liturgy of crystal

                           II                         Vocalise, pour l’Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps – Vocalise, for the angel who announces                                     end of Time

                           III                        Abîme des oiseaux – Abyss of the birds

                           IV                        Intermède – (Interlude)

                           V                         Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus – (Praise to the eternity of Jesus)

VI           Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes – Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets

VII          Fouillis d’arcs-en-ciel, pour l’Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps – (Cluster of rainbows, for the angel who announces the end of Time

VIII         Louange à l’Immortalité de Jésus – (Praise to the immortality of Jésus)


Olli Leppäniemi, clarinet

Trio con Brio


Langgaard Lounge

10.30 pm Quedens Gaard

Meet some of the day’s artists, enjoy a Rued Langgaard Porter from Ribe Brewery and listen to excerpts of Langgaard’s String Quartet no. 3 during which the hymn tune The great Master comes is caught in a musical storm.


Rued Langgaard: String Quartet no. 3 (1924) Excerpts (8’)

  • Presto scherzoso artifizioso (subtle)
  • Tranquillo – Scherzoso schernevole (derisive)


Musicians from The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus



Sunday 2/9


Cantata service

10 am Ribe Cathedral

During the service there will be a performance of the cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, which was composed by the young 22-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach. After a moving instrumental introduction the choir and soloists sing a number of texts from the Old Testament and the New Testament as well as some by Luther. The texts deal with the departure from life. The first part communicates the fear of death as found in the Old Testament, the second part communicates the longing to be united with Jesus in death as found in the New Testament.


J.S. Bach: Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit – Actus tragicus Church cantata BWV 106 (1708) (20’)


Ribe Kammerkor with soloists and instrumental ensemble

Conductor: Lotte Bille Glæsel


Langgaard picture book

1 pm Kannikegården. Langgaard Salen

Langgaard in front of the camera and behind his writing desk – what the composer’s photos, papers and manuscripts have to say. Lecture by Bendt Viinholt Nielsen (60’)


Coffee in Kannikegården


The Goldberg Variations

3 pm St. Catharine’s Church

In Variations on “From my heart I long” for string quartet and The Goldberg Variations by Rued Langgaard and Johann Sebastian Bach respectively, the two composers display an exceptional ability to conjure up a wealth of musical colours and feelings on the basis of a simple melody. Langgaard wrote his quartet in memory of his father, Siegfried Langgaard, and the result is affecting music in which beauty and pain are two sides of the same coin. However, it is not known for whom Bach wrote his Goldberg Variations, but the music is a gift to humanity. Here sublime simplicity and ingenious compositional technique form a synthesis.


Bach’s 8 Canons are short melodic fragments which in Hans Abrahamsen’s refined realization twist and turn like mobiles floating freely in the air. In Efterårslied (Autumn Song) which is composed in a modern, dreamlike style, Hans Abrahamsen links the Ribe composer Oluf Ring’s melody Sig nærmer Tiden (Time is approaching) with music from Bach’s last work Die Kunst der Fuge.


Rued  Langgaard: Variations on “From my heart I long” String quartet. BVN 71 (1914-15) (15’)


J.S. Bach: 8 Canons (BVW 1072-78 and BWV deest) for flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, guitar, violin and cello. Realization by Hans Abrahamsen (18’)




Hans Abrahamsen: Efterårslied (Autumn Song) (1992 and 2009) (7’) for cor anglaise, piano and string trio.


J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations Excerpts. Adaptation by Esbjerg Ensemble of Dimitri Sitkovetsky’s version for string trio. (30’)


Esbjerg Ensemble