NIELS WILHELM GADE (1817 - 1890)
The Danish composer Niels Gade started his musical career as a violinist in the Danish Royal Orchestra. His first success as a composer came in 1840 with his overture Echoes of Ossian. His First Symphony was accepted by Mendelssohn and performed by the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, where Gade met Mendelssohn and Schumann, succeeding the former as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1847. The following year he returned to Denmark, where he came to assume a leading position in the musical life of the country, writing music in a style greatly influenced by Mendelssohn and Schumann.
Gade’s orchestral music includes eight symphonies, a violin concerto, several concert overtures, and the evocative A Summer’s Day in the Country (five pieces for orchestra).
Gade’s chamber music includes the mature String Quartet in D, two string quintets, a string sextet and string octet, the Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano, and three violin sonatas.
Piano music by Gade, items of which once formed a general part of popular amateur repertoire, includes a piano sonata, fantasy pieces, and Akvareller (‘Watercolours’) – attractive brief sketches.
Vocal and Choral Music
Gade’s vocal and choral music ranges from the Wagnerian Baldur’s Dream to the cantatas Zion and Psyche written for the Birmingham Festival, testimony to Gade’s international reputation. The earlier Comala reflects his interest in Ossian, and Elverskud (‘Elf-King’s Daughter’) is Scandinavian in choice of subject and treatment. In his later music Gade’s nationalism was subsumed in the German musical idiom that he had experienced in Leipzig.