Niels Gade

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Niels Wilhelm Gade (pronounced Garda) (1817-1890), was a Danish composer, conductor and teacher, and the most important musical figure in Denmark during the 19th century. He was trained as a violinist and began his career with the Royal Copenhagen Orchestra, where his first composition (the concert overture, “Echos of Ossian”) was performed in 1840.

His first symphony was enjoyed by Felix Mendelssohn who appointed him as an assistant conductor at Mendelssohn’s own Gewandhaus Orchestra. Here he met Robert Schumann, and continued composing. Back in Copenhagen in 1847, he began a thorough involvement in the musical life of the capital, as composer, teacher, conductor, church organist and administrator, that was to last until his death. He founded a permanent orchestra, put the Copenhagen Music Society in order, and became co-director of the Conservatorium (with Johann Hartman, whose daughter he married in 1852.) As a teacher to Edvard Grieg and Carl Nielsen, his influence continued after his death.

Although there is some Scandinavian colour in his early works, especially his choral and vocal writing, much of his output is in the German Romantic style of Mendelssohn and Schumann; especially his eight symphonies. He also wrote for the piano and organ and in various chamber forms.

His music is no less pleasant for its borrowed idiom. Whilst no particular work has imprinted itself on the world, it is popular when performed and most of it is available on modern recordings.

References: “The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music”


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