Christina Åstrand

Niels W. Gade: Sonatas for violin & piano

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Danish Romantic composer Niels Gade is best known for his orchestral music; the three sonatas for violin and piano recorded here are rarely heard, at least outside of Denmark. But the first of them, at least, attracted performances by both Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann in its own time (the latter with Gade himself on the violin). They cover a span of time from 1842 to 1885. One interesting feature of the set is that the expected stylistic progression is reversed; the freest piece is the Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 6, with its wealth of melody, while the second is closer to the vein of Schumann's chamber music, with clear sonata forms and motivic links among movements. The third sonata is one of those sunny works of old age that seems to look back on the music of a lifetime; it's a lovely, airy piece. There's a distinctive mood running through all three works, light but without a hint of the salon. It would be hard to imagine more sympathetic performances than those by Danish musicains Christina Astrand (violin) and Per Salo (piano), and any lover of Romantic-era chamber music will find a valuable collection addition here. The booklet notes, useful but a bit heavy on minutiae of chronology, are in English, German, and Danish.

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