WORKS: Echoes from Ossian; A Summer’s Day in the Country; Hamlet; Holbergiana
PERFORMER: Rheinland-Pfalz State PO/Ole Schmidt
CATALOGUE NO: 999 362-2
The fine overtures recorded here were included on a Chandos disc of the Danish composer’s music I reviewed last March, but the two larger works are new to the catalogue. Holbergiana was written in the same year that Grieg composed the original version of his Holberg Suite (both works occasioned by the bicentenary in 1884 of the Danish-Norwegian author of theatrical comedies, Ludvig Holberg). Gade’s suite is both more exuberant and more symphonic than Grieg’s, but it lacks the Norwegian composer’s melodic distinction. The five-movement Summer’s Day in the Country is a sort of Danish Pastoral Symphony, and Gade even calls his finale ‘Merry Peasant Life’. It is a work of considerable charm, though the storm movement is a tame affair compared to Beethoven’s.
As an introduction to Gade’s orchestral output, Kitaenko’s Chandos disc with the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (CHAN 9422, also including the folk-inspired First Symphony which so impressed Mendelssohn) is probably a better bet. On this new CD the orchestral playing is adequate but undistinguished, and Ole Schmidt’s interpretations seem to lack real enthusiasm. Misha Donat