Niels Gade, father figure of 19th-century Danish music, was more than just a provincial imitator of Mendelssohn. His best work has a freshness, skill and melodic charm which won him the praise of Schumann - a keen-eared critic when it came to recognising originality in others. These three sonatas show Gade in youth, early maturity and old age - the Third Sonata was written in 1885, by which time Gade must have seemed incurably old-fashioned. They are all fine works, all played very persuasively by Dora Bratchkova and Andreas Meyer-Hermann. But I have to admit that it was the early A major Sonata (composed when Gade was 25) which really won me over. The range of colour and feeling is surprisingly wide, and the imagination sparkles. I found it ultimately more convincing, and a lot more appealing, than the determinedly serious Second Sonata - though that has its fine moments, especially the second movement: an ingeniously dovetailed slow movement and scherzo. Recordings are clear and spacious, if a little lacking in warmth.
© BBC Music Magazine 2000