Gade: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 6; Echoes of Ossian; Movement from Symphony No. 3

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 6; Echoes of Ossian; Movement from Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Danish National RSO/Christopher Hogwood
Niels Gade has a secure place in the musical textbooks as the ‘Father of Danish Music’, but the music itself has had few critical fanfares, and it isn’t often heard outside his home country. Well, it’s still hard enough to get Schumann’s symphonies into concert programmes, so perhaps we shouldn’t have unduly extravagant hopes for relatively minor contemporaries like Gade. But, as this disc shows, if he wasn’t a master in Schumann’s or Mendelssohn’s league, Gade could still be vigorous, imaginative and sometimes quite original. The moody opening of Echoes of Ossian – the 23-year-old Gade’s Op. 1 – could almost be early Sibelius, while the discarded first movement of the Third Symphony (recorded here for the first time) is remarkably adventurous for its time; in fact it’s possible Gade discarded it because he was afraid it might prove too difficult for his intended Leipzig audience. With this movement restored, the Third Symphony sounds as vital and impressive as any contemporary post-Mendelssohnian symphony. Attractive as it is, the more familiar replacement first movement of the Third feels safer and less compelling – like the whole of the Sixth Symphony it stands further back from the edge. The performances make a strong case for the music – particularly in Echoes of Ossian and the Third Symphony. Hogwood doesn’t have the romantic freshness and generosity of Neeme Järvi on BIS, but he does make the music sound a lot crisper and tauter, which I think ultimately is more to its benefit. Recorded sound is generally good, though the Danish Radio Concert Hall reverberation is tamed slightly more successfully in the Third Symphony. Stephen Johnson