String Octet in F Major, Op.17
Walter Wilson Cobbett, editor of the highly authoritative Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music writing about Niels Gade's Octet says:
"There is romantic charm on every page. For such an addition to the limited octet repertory, musicians have reason to be grateful. It is the expression of a poetic nature."
Niels Gade (1817-1890) was born in Copenhagen and began his career as a concert violinist, later taking a position with the Royal Danish Orchestra. Mendelssohn, who was much impressed by and premiered Gadeís First Symphony, invited him to teach at the famous Leipzig Conservatory. After Mendelssohnís death in 1847, Gade was appointed director of the Conservatory and also conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra. In 1848, he returned to Copenhagen where he became director of the Copenhagen Musical Society and established a new orchestra and chorus. He was widely regarded as Denmark's most important composer from the mid-Romantic period. He taught and influenced several Scandinavian composers, including Edvard Grieg, Carl Nielsen and Otto Malling. His own music often shows the influence of both Mendelssohn and Schumann.
The Octet, composed in 1849, not long after Mendelssohn's death, might well be a tribute to his friend and mentor. It certainly shows a Mendelssohnian influence. Right from the opening notes of the first movement, Allegro molto e con fuoco, the aura of Mendelssohn can be heard. The chromatically descending first subject is dominated by the of forward rhythmic drive. The lyrical second subject has a melancholy mood to it. The charming second movement, Andantino quasi allegretto, seems based on a sad folk melody and is a kind of slow Mendelssohnian intermezzo. The second theme is as lovely as the first but strikes a happier note. A lively scherzo, Allegro moderato e tranquillo, follows. The main theme sounds like a sailor's ditty. The dynamics are kept soft giving the music added charm. The finale, Allegro vivace, is full of bustle and good spirits.
Our of print for the better part of a century, with our reprint, amateurs and professionals now have another addition to the scanty octet repertoire.
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