GADE, LANGE-MÜLLER & LANGGAARD: Danish Romantic Piano Trios
01 February 2016
The big cheese of 19th-century Danish music, Niels Gade, was among the first to pounce on it. Gade was a fine violinist (Schumann noted the link with his surname and the instrument's four strings) but was not so hot on keys, which might contribute to the slightly heavy, stop-start feel that stalks his B flat Piano Trio (1863). We also hear the first movement of an aborted trio from 1839, planned as a programmatic piece based on a heroic adventure. Ironically, the narrative framework might have freed Gade up to worry less about thematic development - a benefit when his themes never quite have the directness of his chum Mendelssohn's. A charming piece that feels more at ease with itself, though in both works Gade's sturdy craftsmanship is clear.
In the self-effacing Peter Erasmus Lange-Müller you almost always hear something different: unusual harmonic glances, an attractive sense of hesitance and, in the case of his F minor Piano Trio (1898), a distinct French influence. The piece rises to a powerful climax in the last movement, Lange-Müller standing tall at last, shouting to be heard over the rest of them. Fans of the crazy Dane Rued Langgaard will recognise the music of Mountain Flowers (1908) as the basis for the second movement of his First Symphony. Good stuff, but Langgaard was right to recognise that the material suited broad orchestral clothing better. The piano takes prominence in the sound picture, which would be more frustrating were Katrine Gislinge's playing not so full of fluency and tenderness.