LABELS: Marco Polo dacapo
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor; Symphony No. 2 in E; Symphony No. 3 in A minor; Symphony No. 5 in D minor; Symphony No. 4 in B flat; Symphony No. 6 in G minor
PERFORMER: Collegium Musicum Copenhagen/Michael Schønwandt
CATALOGUE NO: DCCD 9201/9004/9202 DDD
Befriended in Leipzig by Mendelssohn and admired by Schumann, the inexplicably neglected Niels Gade (1817-90) was one of the most famous of the early Danish Romantics. He grafted Scandinavian folksong on to German symphonicism to create an original synthesis at once nationalistic and cosmopolitan.
Revealing the pacing, imagination and orchestral art of a master, his eight symphonies date from 1841 to 1871. Cast in traditional forms, with echoes of Beethoven and Schubert alongside tantalising foreshadowings of Wagner, Brahms and Saint-Saëns, their debt to Mendelssohn (who conducted the premiere of the First Symphony, based on old Danish heroic ballads) and Schumann is self-evident. But they’re not entirely derivative. On the contrary, in their pages you will find individual lyricism (the Second Symphony, for Schumann ‘reminiscent of Denmark’s beautiful beechwoods’), innovative surprise (the Scherzo of the First), tough gesture (the tragic Sixth), cogent organisation (the once popular Fourth), lofty nobility (the Fifth, with a virtuoso concertante part for piano) and lingeringly beautiful strains of Baltic European melody and poetic fantasy (the Third). Just what’s needed to rejuvenate tired modern concert programming.
Michael Schønwandt and his Collegium Musicum Copenhagen play these forgotten Romantic glories to the manner born, with an involvement and commitment that has the edge over Järvi and the Stockholm Sinfonietta (BIS). Warmly resonant, honest recording, musically focused. Ates Orga