Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890)

Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890)

Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890)
Fotography, Manskopf Collection,
Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt, Signature of the original: S 36/F00491

Clara Schumann made her first contact with the Danish composer and conductor Niels Wilhelm Gade during a guest stay in Copenhagen in 1842. Impressed, she wrote to Robert Schumann after a concert: “I would not have guessed that overture was his” and later noted that Gade knew all of Schumann’s works. Gade had indeed asked his colleague Carl Helstedt to tell him all about Schumann in 1841 already, after a stay of the latter in Leipzig. In the following year, Gade went to Leipzig himself. After the premiere of Gade’s Symphony No. 1 with the Ossian Overture, Schumann cautiously stated in his diary: “The Scherzo is probably the most original part of all, otherwise a lot of Schubert, few own thoughts, with each movement turning around you until you grow tired of it.” Yet Schumann noted, in particular, the strange sounds in Gade’s work which he denoted as Nordic and also pointed this out in a review in "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik" [New Journal of Music].

During Gade’s stay, the Schumanns spent a lot of time with him on joint excursions, meals, playing music together, and a trip to Berlin to see Mendelssohn. Schumann emphasised the trusting relationship by accepting Gade into the circle of the "Davidsbündler" [Members of the League of David]. This eventually developed into a life-long friendship, as documented by letters and more visits. In 1850, Gade travelled to Leipzig for the premiere of Schumann’s Genoveva, and the respectful trust between them further showed by dedicating various works to each other: Gade dedicated his Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, Op. 6, composed in 1842 and printed in 1843, to Clara Schumann, and his Sonata for Violin and Piano in D minor, Op. 21, composed in 1849, to Robert Schumann. In 1851, Schumann dedicated his Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 110, to Gade. In the "Album für die Jugend" (Album for the Young), the "Nordische Lied - Gruß an G. [ade]" [Northern Song – Salute to G.] referred to the Danish composer. On an album leaf for Gade, entitled “Auf Wiedersehen [Goodbye]“, Schumann used his friend’s name over four bass notes: G, A D E, a d e.

Through this article in "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik", Schumann introduced the Danish composer to a broad interested public. In 1853, in an article entitled “Neue Bahnen [New Paths]”, he described the artist as a pioneer and harbinger of a musical development - that was to eventually lead to the symphonic work of Johannes Brahms.

(Sigrid Lange, translated by Thomas Henninger)

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