Gade: Comala (CD)

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Marie-Adeline Henry, Markus Eiche, Rachel Kelly, Elenor Wiman, Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Choir, Laurence Equilbey

In 1840s Leipzig the young Danish composer Niels W. Gade (1817-90) was welcomed with open arms, and became Mendelssohn's successor with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. There Gade himself conducted the first performance of his cantata Comala, which travelled as far afield as the USA and Russia. Comala is a lyrical-heroic legend based on James Macpherson's famous Ossian poems about the warrior Fingal and his beloved Comala, here performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Choir and an inspired team of international soloists under the renowned French conductor Laurence Equilbey.

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BBC Music Magazine

3 Stars

"Stylistically it owes much to Mendelssohn…Marie-Adeline Henry and Markus Eiche, taking on the roles of Comala and Fingal respectively, deliver committed and expressive singing, and conductor Laurence Equilbey negotiates the ebb and flow of the drama very effectively with the help of responsive playing from the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.

Choir & Organ

4 Stars

"Based on Ossian (more specifically on Gade’s own op.1 Echoes of Ossian), and inspired by the then (1846) current vogue for the Scottish Highlands, it is a secular cantata that very cleverly contrasts dramatic passages with more lyrical work. It is strange that it should have been criticised for monotony in the German press. It seems on the contrary almost too eager to vary pace and tone, and it is to the credit of the soloists and choir that this doesn’t become excessive. Comala’s fame has perhaps ebbed in recent years. This marvellous recording brings it into fresh focus."

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Gade, N: Comala, Op. 12

  1. Introduction
  2. No. 1, Auf, auf, auf, laut schallt das Horn
  3. No. 2, Heute noch brech' ich des stolzen Königs Macht
  4. No. 3, Auf, auf in die Schlacht, Fingal führt uns zum Sieg!
  5. No. 4, O grauenvolle Stille! Dahin, dahin sind die lieblichen Träume
  6. No. 5, Vom Lochlin kam gezogen Suaran, der stolze Held
  7. No. 6, Still, still ist die Jagd, kein Laut ertönt, als das Brausen des Stroms
  8. No. 7, Wir wandeln auf dem Sturm
  9. No. 8, O, o, dass ich nicht sitze an Caruns Wellen
  10. No. 9, Entfloh'n ist der Feind' Getöse, nicht sieht man sein Ross auf den Höhen
  11. No. 10, Lasst ab vom lauten Siegsgesang, ihr Krieger Fingals, schweigt, o schweigt!
  12. No. 11, Lasst mich schauen die Geliebte, zeiget, wo die Holde schläft
  13. No. 12, Aus den Wolken herab schauen die Geister der Ahnen

Marie-Adeline Henry (soprano), Markus Eiche (baritone), Rachel Kelly (mezzo), Elenor Wiman (alto)

Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Choir, Laurence Equilbey

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While not a new release (it came out last March), Gade’s Comala is a welcome companion to the Erlkönigs Tochter CD discussed above. Comala is, if anything, even more impressive, a large-scale cantata setting poems from ‘Ossian’ about the warrior Fingal. Four vocal soloists, choir and orchestra are called for in this ambitious work, written for Gade himself to conduct with his new orchestra, the  Gewandhaus, which he took over from Mendelssohn, with the latter’s blessing. (Gade was so favoured that he was entrusted with conducting the first performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto). Gade’s music is by no means a clone of Mendelssohn’s however, his musical personality is quite different; there is a Nordic tone unlike anything else in German music of the time. Erlkönigs Tochter is perhaps the more accessible of the two works, but Comala is well worth a listen.

- Chris Dench, The Classical Music Collector