Jacob Gade so wanted to be a Waltz King, but, as the excellent notes in the booklet tell us, he was out of time and too late for such a wish. As we all know, what made his name was a tango called Jalousie
, and it is the recording by the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, which everyone can recall. After running away from home he found work freelancing in Copenhagen and he wrote waltzes which were published under the pseudonyms Maurice Ribot and Leon Bonnard. From 1921 Gade led the orchestra at the Palais Theatre and started to think seriously about how music could accompany the silent films of the time. It was during this time that he wrote Jalousie
as part of the accompaniment to a silent film. The Fiedler recording of the tango proved so popular that Gade was able, thanks to the royalties, to devote himself entirely to composition. He subsequently presented Arthur Fiedler with the score of a symphony. In an interview in 1977 Fiedler said that it was "one of the worst pieces of music I ever looked at.”
This last comment has been well publicised and it’s difficult not to think of Gade as the proverbial one-hit wonder, but as we have never had a real chance to get to know his music it’s been impossible to tell the quality of his work one way or the other. So I welcomed this CD, when I received it, for here, at last, was a chance, perhaps, to put the record straight.
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. There’s also what I imagine to be some Mickey Mousing in them as well.
I am all for the discovery of new and re–discovery of forgotten and neglected composers – both DaCapo and Danacord have done sterling work for Danish music in these areas – but I cannot bring myself to believe, no matter how hard I try, that Jacob Gade is a composer who demands our attention. The music on this disk is pretty undistinguished. It would make a great musical game, asking people to identify the composer but for lasting pleasure there simply isn’t sufficient individuality or personality to the pieces.
Christian Westergaard is obviously a fine pianist and he really “feels” this music but even his persuasive advocacy cannot lift it from its place as not particularly interesting drawing-room music. The recording and notes are excellent.Bob Briggs
The proverbial one-hit wonder… see Full Review