Niels Wilhelm GADE (1817-1890)
Novelette No 1 in F, Op 53 (1874) [19:28]
Novelette No 2 in E, Op 58 (1883-6) [23:20]
Aarhus Chamber Orchestra/Ove Vedsten Larsen
rec. 1981, Ellevang Kirke, Aarhus, Denmark
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94185 [42:48]

Niels W. Gadeís Novelettes are charming, fresh additions to the romantic string-serenade repertoire. There are two sets, the first in F and the second in E, both dating from fairly late in Gadeís career. For those listeners who enjoy Griegís Holberg Suite, or the serenades of Suk, DvorŠk, Tchaikovsky, and Robert Fuchs, this style will need no introduction: elegant dances, lyrical melodies which rise and fall with a cool outdoor loveliness, the minor keys used merely for spice.

A standout moment might be the beginning of the second set, with its ambiguous slow introduction opening up to brighter things; the second set also features a gorgeous andante with a fine role for the cellos. The first also opens with a lovely slow introduction, and it closes with a finale that brings to mind Mendelssohnís Octet with its light-hearted fugato opening and perpetual-motion effects.

This isnít exactly at the top of the string-serenade ladder, not next to Tchaikovsky, Suk, and DvorŠk. Itís not even on the second rung, where Fuchs and Dag Wirťn reside. The first two Fuchs serenades were just released on a gorgeous Naxos CD which Iíd recommend over this one if you only buy one pretty string music disc per year. It doesnít help that the recorded sound, analog from 1981, is slightly glassy, or that the Aarhus Chamber Orchestraís work as an ensemble isnít as polished as that of the best chamber orchestras we have today. Another cause for slight hesitation is the booklet note, which profiles Gade so strongly that we only get 18 words about the actual Novelettes. The CD lasts just 43 minutes.

But please notice I only said slight hesitation! This is still lovely music, fresh and totally enjoyable, and an unquestionably fine way to pass 43 minutesí time. Itís at Brilliantís usual bargain price. That said, the same price gets you ten minutesí more music (and more colorful music too) on the Naxos Fuchs album; though I usually wouldnít recommend one composer over another in a review, I do listen to my romantic string music to satisfy a particular craving, or mood, and other composers fulfil that mood better than does Niels W. Gade. Still, this is very nice, and there is nothing wrong with very nice!

Brian Reinhart

Very pleasant additions to the romantic string-serenade repertoire.