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CD Review

Niels Wilhelm Gade

Complete Works for Piano Trio

  • Piano Trio in F Major, Op. 42
  • Novelettes, Op. 29
  • Movement for Piano Trio in B Flat Major
  • Scherzo for Piano Quartet
Thomas Selditz, viola
Trio Parnassus
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG3031665-2 70min DDD
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Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890) is considered by many as the Danish Mendelssohn, and rightly so, as his music is as melodious and well-crafted as the German master's. This superb CD concentrates on the composer's piano trios, of which, in reality, he wrote only one, but the remaining pieces are indeed intriguing, and shed important light on Gade's development of the genre.

Gade was strongly influenced by the time he spent in Leipzig commencing in 1843. It was here that he made the acquaintance with Mendelssohn's and Schumann's circles, conducted the Gewandhaus Orchestra and had his first symphony premièred. But before all these events panned out, Gade was already setting his hand at composition, and as early as 1836 we find the composer attempting his first chamber work, of which only a "scherzo" survives. Three years later he planned out a trio, but eventually he only came up with a very fine first movement.

The breakthrough came in 1853 after his return from Leipzig. He composed a five-movement piano trio, which, in the best Schumann tradition, he termed "Novelettes", and in it we can catch glimpses of his real masterpiece, the F Major Trio, Op. 42. In four movements with the "scherzo" coming second, the work is full of sparkling moments and bubbling tunes, and the orchestral "finale" is a real "tour-de-force", giving the three musicians optimal opportunities to shine.

Trio Parnassus give inspiring performances full of virtuosic brilliance and their constant attention to detail brings out all the poetic radiance of this music. Gade's reputation rests mostly on his orchestral works, but if you want to investigate his more intimate ideas this is an excellent place to start. Wonderful sound and annotations complete an issue of true distinction, replete with consummate musicality and engaging artistry.

Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech.