Great Danish music.
L. Riffel | San Pedro, CA | 07/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A tragically overlooked composer, Gade may be considered Denmark's greatest musical export. Although all his symphonies are good, I recommend his 5th Symphony above the rest, as it almost wants to be a piano concerto at times with some of the most lyrical themes I've heard in this particular genre. The first and third movements are particularly beautiful. Now go enjoy some fine Danish music. Sköl!"
Forgotten Danish Gems
Micromegas | Ada, OK | 08/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brilliant, brilliant music. Gade exists in the sound world of Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Schumann, and Grieg, and yet to say this really doesn't say much about his music. He is closest to Mendelssohn in sound and in his classical demeanor, yet he can be brilliantly rhapsodic, indulging in melody after gorgeous melody swathed in immaculate (yet transparent, never thick) orchestration. This disc represents him at his best--perhaps his two greatest symphonies, each one a little more colorful and imaginative than musical history would give him credit for.
The First Symphony brims over with folk melodies and a real sense of sweep and drama. The first movement echoes (ha) the Echoes of Ossian overture, with a rousing chorale played several times that suggests the strains of an epic ballad. It's an exciting movement, cut from the same cloth as Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony, but a little more daring in places (Gade was a young man when he wrote this, and takes a young man's risks). The scherzo and slow movement are lovely and less volatile, while the finale is short and fiery--a triumphant march to victory. Everything in the symphony is catchy and replays repeated listening.
The Fifth Symphony, remarkably, is even better, and features the novel touch of adding piano accompaniment (never a concerto, but it offers concertante embellishments). The first movement is haunting, with a melody that may be the best he ever penned; the use of the piano with this melody is sheer genius. It evokes something of the mood of Schumann's slow movement from Symphony No.4. A gorgeous, gentle slow movement and quicksilver scherzo follow, and then a truly expansive finale. Only a first-rate mind could imagine and set this symphony to music, and Gade is the genuine article. These symphonies should be at least as well known as Nielsen's early works, and more so than anything Grieg ever wrote for the orchestra (Piano Concerto excluded). There's no risk taking here--if you like the era you will adore these works.
Hogwood plays the music with extreme commitment and allows the orchestra to really dig into this rare repertoire. I also have the set with Symphonies 3 and 6, which I've reviewed. Neither symphony is quite at the level of these works, though No.6 comes close. They are well worth a listen after getting to know these near-masterpieces."