LABELS: Da Capo
ALBUM TITLE: Gade
WORKS: Piano Works
PERFORMER: Marianna Shirinyan (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.226122
Niels Gade’s works rarely feature in concert programmes – the people most likely to know him are those who encounter his easy piano pieces. But he was a big fish in his day: a prominent organist, a leading conductor in Leipzig, and co-director of the newly-founded Copenhagen Academy. As a composer he’s never been much rated – the Oxford Dictionary of Music doesn’t even bother to list his eight symphonies.
This CD presents his complete piano output. The second track takes me straight back to my days doing Associated Board Grade 5 – a perky little scherzo, marked Allegro grazioso and lasting all of 49 seconds, which charms me now as it did then. And listening on to the rest of the miniatures in Aquarellen Vol. 1, I remain gently charmed by the way he spins out his melodies.
The Sonata in E minor aspires to be something much more elevated: he laboured on it for 15 years, scrapping it half way through when he heard Liszt play in 1841, after which he tried to raise his game. He certainly absorbed some Lisztean mannerisms alongside those of Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn, but this work gives the feeling of being all dressed up and nowhere to go: its intermittently declamatory sections always give way to his trademark melodiousness. Marianna Shirinyan’s playing is clean, vivid, and virtuosic when required, but this work never hits the hoped-for mark.
The remainder of this CD is invariably cheerful and sunlit: a treasure-trove of potential encore pieces, and fine material for learners to cut their teeth on.