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CD Review

Niels Wilhelm Gade

Symphonies, Volume 3

  • Overture "Echoes of Ossian" Op. 1
  • Symphony #3 Op. 15
  • Symphony #6, Op. 32
  • Discarded Movement from Symphony #3
Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Christopher Hogwood
Chandos CHAN9795 77m DDD
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This is the third disc in Hogwood's admirable symphonic cycle dedicated to the works of Niels Wilhelm Gade, most certainly a composer who has a gift for honest, well crafted melodies and a penchant for good tunes. I have already commented favourably on previous issues in this series and can safely say that the warm welcome accorded to those discs is extended here. Hogwood chooses to begin with the lovely 'Echoes of Ossian' overture that flows about in a most intriguing manner. The Third Symphony is one of Gade's most excitable works and it also gets off to an intriguing and energetic start in its First Movement. The A minor key is well adhered to and the Un poco lento tempo is very intriguingly drawn out by Hogwood and his Danish orchestra who play this music to the manner born. The lovely Andante sostenuto is also very well managed with a particular singing melody attributed to the strings, who play with dreamy charm in Hogwood's coaxing. In the Allegro assai moderato we have an impression of impish playfulness that is very much akin to Gade's own inventiveness. The Finale is typically sprightly and is indeed very energetic with the tempo changes also well negotiated by the conductor. The triumphant peroration at the end is almost hair-raising in its eminent sense of nationalism.

The intriguing supplement is provided in the shape of the première recording of the discarded first movement from the Third Symphony. This is a whole two minutes longer than its successor and is indeed very interesting hearing although I must confess that I found it slightly repetitive at times. The Sixth Symphony is in G minor and is also a deeply felt work that reveals a certain debt to Goldmark and Reinecke but is inimitably Gadesian in all respects. A trenchant First Movement is marked Andantino-Allegro molto vivace and Hogwood is superb in handling the transition between both parts of the score. The same goes for a deep and soul felt Andante sostenuto. The short scherzo marked Allegro moderato e energico is similarly 'Play of the Elves' touched whilst the splendidly rambunctious Finale is another debt to Berwald. I do believe that Hogwood and his Danish band are enjoying the music greatly.

As comparisons go, the previous Marco Polo cycle with Schönwandt and the same DRSO was quite fine but Chandos has the edge in sonics. Järvi and his Tapiola Sinfonietta on BIS are also a good bet but with the original presentation, copious notes and the informal vitality of performances, Christopher Hogwood is now definitely top of the pile as these works go. I look forward to the final disc in this outstanding series.

Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech