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Michael Church
BBC Music Magazine, September 2017

Niels Gade’s works rarely feature in concert programmes—the people most likely to know him are those who encounter his easy piano pieces. But he was a big fish in his day: a prominent organist, a leading conductor in Leipzig, and co-director of the newly-founded Copenhagen Academy.

This CD presents his complete piano output. The second track takes me straight back to my days doing Associated Board Grade 5—a perky little scherzo, marked Allegro grazioso and lasting all of 49 seconds, which charms me now as it did then. And listening on to the rest of the miniatures in Aquarellen Vol. 1, I remain gently charmed by the way he spins out his melodies.

The Sonata in E minor aspires to be something much more elevated: he laboured on it for 15 years, scrapping it half way through when he heard Liszt play in 1841, after which he tried to raise his game. He certainly absorbed some Lisztean mannerisms alongside those of Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn, but this work gives the feeling of being all dressed up and nowhere to go: its intermittently declamatory sections always give way to his trademark melodiousness. Marianna Shirinyan’s playing is clean, vivid, and virtuosic when required…

The remainder of this CD is invariably cheerful and sunlit: a treasure-trove of potential encore pieces, and fine material for learners to cut their teeth on. © 2017 BBC Music Magazine

Stuart Sillitoe
MusicWeb International, June 2017

Most of the music presented on this CD is duplicated on the Westenholz disc, and there is an automatic preference here in the way that the Dacapo engineers have given a separate track to each piece of music…

The Piano Sonata is the most important work here. It was composed over many years and many revisions were made until Gade was finally satisfied. …The Sonata is cast in the style of Schumann and stands well alongside his sonatas, with both Westenholz and Shirinyan giving very good performances. Shirinyan, unlike Westenholz, places the Sonata between the two books of the op. 19 Aquarellen. I feel this works better than presenting it first, since it gives the Sonata more prominence whilst also placing it in context with the other piano pieces presented here.

The rest of this disc is mainly taken up with Gade’s three books of Aquarellen. …they are given a sparkling performance by Shirinyan. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Records International, April 2017

Except for the sonata, which Gade worked on for 15 years (!) before it was printed in 1854, all of his piano works are in the vein of salon music or character pieces, mostly of moderate difficulty (he himself was not a professional pianist). 26 years ago, Marco Polo/Dacapo released three CDs containing all of it but they didn’t have the two-minute Chanson danoise, a first recording. © 2017 Records International

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2017

Niels Gade, trained as a violinist, earned a living in orchestras before moving to conducting and composing to become Denmark’s leading 19th century musician. He was also a highly regarded organist, and it is said that in orchestral rehearsals he would sit at the piano to explain how he wanted phrases to be played. That would explain his sizeable output for keyboard, where he was obviously well versed in writing for the instrument. That is particularly pertinent to the Sonata on which he worked for almost fifteen years before its completion in 1854. Dedicated to Liszt, it calls for the power and intensity of the same named work composed by its dedicatee. In four movements, and lasting almost twenty-five minutes, it was the starting point of his large-scale symphonic works, and, as with Liszt, it requires both stamina and technical brilliance from the performer. The third movement scherzo is an engaging showpiece before the turbulent finale that calls for a powerful left hand. Why pianists ignore the work is really unforgivable. The three Aquarellen are groups of five very short tone-pictures that are both aimed at testing the skills of the amateur, and for the concert pianist to show the audience how they should sound. In either mode they fall most pleasingly on the ear. Volkstanze (Folk Dances) were written as Fantasy Pieces, happy by nature and content, while the Aquarel and Chanson Danoise are over almost as soon as they begin. Two pages of the booklet comment on this disc using the new definitive editions of Gade’s music, the performances from the Armenian-born, Marianna Shirinyan, being played with an obvious affection for the music and have wonderful lucid fingers. The sound did take some time for my ears to adjust, but this too is of exceptional clarity. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

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