Gade: The Symphonies / Jarvi, Stockholm Sinfonietta, Malmo Symphony Orchestra
At five discs for the price of two, this set is a steal. Neeme Järvi's versions of the eight symphonies are as fine as any available, certainly as good as Hogwood's excellent Chandos set which now costs several times as much. Niels Gade was a musical conservative, very much of the Mendelssohn school, but he had a distinctive personality and, more to the point, he knew how to make his music move. These symphonies have good tunes, almost no dead spots, and the Fifth, which has an important concertante part for solo piano, really is an entertaining and original piece by any standard. Järvi secures crisp, lively playing from the Stockholm Sinfonietta; there isn't a weak performance in the lot.
The Violin Concerto is also a fine, unaccountably neglected piece, very well played by Anton Kontra (of the eponymous quartet fame). Its central Andantino espressive really is a gem, but then the entire piece has a formal compactness and confidence typical of Gade. The Crusaders (featuring the Aarhus Symphony under Frans Rasmussen) is an hour-long cantata for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, and it makes a considerable bonus. Of course in today's world it's kind of hard to sympathize with the crusades, or with any piece in which Peter the Hermit is the good guy, but give Gade credit: he gets through the entire Armida/Rinaldo love story in 23 minutes, and it's the best part of the work. Enough talk: just get this box, and your Gade collection will be pretty much complete.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: BIS-CD-1835-36
Composer: Niels Gade
Conductor: Frans Rasmussen, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble: Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Canzone Choir, Da Camera Vocal Ensemble, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Sinfonietta
Performer: Anton Kontra