Gade: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 8; Allegretto, un poco lento; In the Highlands

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 8; Allegretto, un poco lento; In the Highlands
PERFORMER: Danish National RSO/Christopher Hogwood
Niels Gade was deeply admired in his own time, not least by such luminaries as Robert Schumann. He was for a time assistant conductor to Mendelssohn (and briefly, following Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, chief conductor) at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Small wonder, then, that his music should show the influences of those two giants. The Second Symphony (premiered at the Gewandhaus in 1844) radiates the same spirited freshness one finds in Schumann’s Spring Symphony, for instance – though the scherzo has a galloping open-air joy about it which seems closer to Mendelssohn. Yet there is also something very individual about Gade’s manner, something, clinched in the finale of this work, which tells loudly of his Danishness. The Eighth Symphony, written in 1871, encompasses other elements still. More than once in the first movement I thought of Bruckner or Brahms, associations confirmed in the lovely, extended third movement, a replacement for the Allegretto, un poco lento (also recorded here along with the characterful ‘Scottish overture’ In the Highlands). Again it is perhaps misleading to dwell on likenesses and influences, for this is music that has its own identity and speaks of a composer, unduly neglected, of high accomplishment. Christopher Hogwood’s performances with the Danish National Radio SO are suffused with apposite warmth and fluidity. Stephen Pettitt