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David Hurwitz, May 2011

Jacob Gade was a master of light music, and it would be very interesting to hear the orchestrations of as many of these pieces as are available. The two suites of Cinema Music are particularly interesting, not just as music, but as real bits of entertainment history. The waltzes are wonderfully seductive and languorous, and the tangos sexy, proof that there’s much more to Gade than just Tango Jalousie. Christian Westergaard plays this music with the right light touch, elegance, and nice rhythmic lilt. Dacapo’s sonics are excellent. Fans of light music will certainly want to hear this, but as I suggested at the top of this review, Gade deserves more systematic attention. Hopefully Dacapo is listening.

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, February 2011

The musical reputation of Jacob Gade (1879–1963) has depended on his famed Tango Jalousie, once the most played composition in the 20th Century. The Danish composer wanted to be known as another “waltz king” in the manner of Johann Strauss, publishing his first waltz Irenen-Zauber in 1900.  Unlike some other Danish waltz inventors, Gade’s dances take their cue from French models, preferably Gounod, Delibes, and Godard.  Under the pseudonym Maurice Ribot, Gade published the opening Valse ravissante (1917) and its companion Valse reveuse (1916), salon pieces with an easy gait and an occasional melodic lilt of some sentimental character close to the spirit of Victor Herbert.  The “ragtime” waltz Un Soir a Maxim, valse brillante (1918) might nod to Ravel, at least insofar as it likes edgy hurdles and modal developments that smack of a Schubert influence.

Pianist Westergaard interrupts the cycle of waltzes with Cinema Music (1926, Series I), a set of six pieces that reflect Gade’s association with the Palads Theatre (beginning 1921), requiring Gade to watch a film twice so he could adapt a grand theme and variations to suit the mercurial moods of romance, idyll, or eeriness, or whatever the film’s plot  demanded. The first two pieces do not distinguish themselves, except as “Mysterioso” generally takes its material from Liszt’s Funerailles. Burlesque has a dainty and light jauntiness not far from a Chaplin moment. Agitato in syncopated double notes rings with a light virtuosity we associate with popular Schumann. Intermezzo bows to the Gossec Gavotte, here cross fertilized by a bit of jazz idiom. The Moderato poco agitato that concludes the set hints at Grieg as an influence, though the bass harmonies seem traditional, like Mendelssohn. Of the six pieces of Cinema Music (1926, Series II), the Folkescene enjoys a yodeling motif intertwined with lithe elements of Grieg. A touch of Schumann’s Forest Scenes informs “Mysterioso,” but its “stealthy” means sound contrived. “Chanson triste” emulates the salon music of Tchaikovsky, lyrical, sweet, symmetrical in a pedestrian formula. After a Chaplinesque “Entr’acte” we catch a whirlwind piano arrangement of the Storm-Scene from Rossini’s William Tell Overture, a sound appropriate for an endangered Lillian Gish.

Melodie (1923) sounds derived from Anton Rubinstein’s Melodie in F, the old Hofmann and Cherkassky staple. Its modulation reminds me of the sweet tune in the Warsaw Concerto. Monna Vanna: Tango Blues (1924) made have been danced by Henry and June Miller in a scene from their Paris haunts. Tango charmeuse casts an Argentine glance at Paris, sultry and a tad bluesy. The relatively lengthy Lavender Scent: Reverie (1923) plays like an etude close in spirit to Liszt’s La Campanella’s flurry of repeated notes. The glittery roulades might suggest Louis Moreau Gottschalk. “Ils sont Passes,” “Phryne: Valse lente,” and “Valse intime” each was published under the pseudonym Maurice Ribot between 1918 and 1921. Rather formulaic, they exert some bravura filigree in their respective middle sections. The “They have passed” waltz (1918) becomes heavy-handed, but its fin-de-siecle sonority recalls barbershop quartets of the period. The sway of Bizet’s Carmen moves Phryne: Valse lente (1918), but the bass-harmony formula has grown tired, as though we had heard “And the Band Played On” section of “The Strawberry Blond” once too many times. The “Valse intime” (1921) lilts much like Victor Herbert or Leo Delibes, happy, charming, and somewhat innocuous.  Generally tame fare, but pleasant in small doses.

Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, September 2010

Jacob Gade (1879-1963) was one of Copenhagen’s leading conductors and is best known for his famous ‘Jalousie’ tango, which has been played more than any other 20th Century composition. These piano works are good but not as fine as that one. Gade wrote over 100 works, mostly for the piano. His father and grandfather had both been fiddlers and dance musicians. Young Jacob joined them in concerts at weddings and birthdays at the age of 5. He mastered both the trumpet and violin. He went to Copenhagen at 15 and had to work at any casual job as a musician. He often slept on staircases and knew all about hunger and the humiliation of poverty. He gradually established himself as a musician and became a bandleader. He was mainly a self-taught, but able, violinist and got full-time professional jobs by the age of 20.

It should be remembered that he had absolutely no formal training as either a violinist or a composer, and yet he played a violin concerto by Paganini and one of Bach’s solo violin sonatas in concert. Right after this in 1919, he and his wife moved to New York City and he was among more than 200 applicants trying out for one of two seats in the orchestra that is now called the New York Philharmonic. He worked for two years under Artur Bodanzky and Willem Mengelberg, but in 1921 they went back to Denmark on holiday and decided not to return to the USA.

There are three types of music here: waltzes, tangos, and music for silent films. He really wanted to compose waltzes, but waltzes were going out of fashion at the time. His tangos are some of his better music, and some of his most delightful works are for the silent film, including one that is a paraphrase of the William Tell Overture by Rossini.

Christian Westergaard is a young Danish pianist of only 30. He has become very well known in Western Europe, and in 1999-2000 he won first prize in Denmark’s Steinway Competition. The recording is good and the notes are thorough.

The Big City, August 2010

...modestly specialized projects can bear yields greater than expected, and prove to have lasting value and power. It’s easy to think of a CD with the title Waltzes, Tangos and Cinema Music as a trifle, but this collection of pieces by Jacob Gade, played with sympathy, pleasure and effervescence by Christian Westergaard, is not only satisfying, but such a joy that it grabs the attention and never lets go of its charms. Gade, famous for his “Tango Jalousie,” wrote these pieces for specific purposes—to get people to dance, to accompany silent films—and they are so well crafted, so smart, so musical that listening to them is as full an experience as listening to Beethoven. His aims were limited, his means direct, his results exceeding his goals. He has no argument to make other than asking us to listen, and, no matter the cliché or predictable gesture, the music gives constant, great pleasure. The superficial stature of this collection in no way keeps it from being one of the finest, most enjoyable releases of 2010.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, June 2010

There’s no denying, on the strength of what’s here, that Gade was desperate to be a Waltz King—the disk contains five of them. They are fine examples, having a slightly faded charm and old fashioned feel. Un Soir à Maxim is a Valse brillante in the most brilliant French manner—think of Poulenc’s L’embarquement pour Cythère but with much less style and a 19th century air—but, like so much on this disk, it doesn’t really add up to much. The two Cinema Music Suites—they both contain six pieces—are slightly different, indeed the first piece in Series 1 could be a sketch for Jalousie—but they are just genre vignettes which allow you actually to “see” the action they were created to accompany…Christian Westergaard is obviously a fine pianist and he really “feels” this music…The recording and notes are excellent.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2010

Jalousie was played throughout the world as the most famous tango ever composed. Ask most people who wrote it, and you would get a blank look. His name was Jacob Gade, born in 1879 and brought up in the Danish city of Vejle surrounded by a musical family. By the age of nine he was playing trumpet in his father’s orchestra, and later moved to the violin. Realising provincial life would not fulfil his musical ambitions, he left home at the age of 16 for Copenhagen, but found life hard there, often so poor he was sleeping in doorways before eventually finding employment in the operetta orchestra. His dream to be a conductor and composer came at the young age of twenty-one with the performance of an operetta that became so popular it secured his future as a composer of light music. But still with a yearning to be a classical violinist, he went, and at the age of 40, to New York and eventually managed to obtain a place in the National Symphony (later the New York Philharmonic). That dream fulfilled he returned home after three years, and using the money from the copyright on his music formed a trust to ensure talented young Danish musicians would never have the financial difficulties he endured. He was an abundant composer of light music, including a number of waltzes, many originally written for piano. He was also active in providing music to silent films, this disc including two series of pieces written in 1926 that create the many moods from sinister to happy. They form the most substantial part of the disc, the remaining ten tracks being charming cameos.

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