In his lifetime he was more popular than Brahms or Dvorák, but is today more neglected.
This CD, performed by the Ensemble MidtVest (“completely committed to Gade’s cause” say the Press notes), is a something of a joy. He’s not top rank but he writes with a lightness of touch and joi de vivre.
The Novelettes in A Minor open — there are five, six if you count the bonus original version of the allegro — and are jolly chamber music. The expressive piano and violin lead the way and convey the image of a lively bunch of players performing to an appreciative crowd. It’s not all fast: the sentimental larghetto con moto is slower.
If you want to like classical music but don’t know where to start, this is probably what you’ve got in your head: pleasing and gentle, without being off-putting in sound or grandiosity. You don’t need to stroke your chin and understand music theory to enjoy it.
This is also true of the second part of the programme, String Quartet in F Minor, which has slightly more gravitas — though Novelettes are practically frivolous — but is still as accessible. Charming.
Out on CPO, 555198-2.