Christopher Hogwood reveals the mastery of Danish symphonists Frøhlich and Gade. The unique coupling on this album allows the listener to explore the development of Danish symphonic language, and features the premiere recording of Frøhlich’s Symphony in E flat.
Interestingly , the autograph score of Frøhlich’s Symphony vanished after his death in 1860 and was not found again until 1887 in Stockholm. Due to this fact, the work have never been in the repertoire in Denmark and has also never been published. Indeed, there are only two other Frøhlich works available in the catalogue.
In Denmark the development of symphonic music lagged far behind the rest of Europe. In the 1790s Weyse had written seven symphonies, but they had not led to further progress. Only a few symphonies are known from the following thirty years until Frøhlich composed his Symphony in E flat major in 1830. The work is not only his sole symphonic composition, but also his most important instrumental work. Its style is early romantic, within a framework that is still classical. The counterpoint is lively and the orchestration dynamic. Frøhlich’s penchant for chromatic harmonies and rhythmic shifts makes the Symphony original and unpredictable. The minuet verges on the eccentric, whilst in the trio section the flute and clarinet play a folk-musician-like duet of utterly Nielsenesque wit.
A further ten years were to pass before Danish composer achieved fame in his home country as a symphonist. Gade, having originally writen in a deliberately ’Nordic’ tone, was soon persuaded by general criticism to adopt a more classical path. Able to look to this mentor Mendelssohn for guidance. Gade remained true to these new ideals for the rest of his life. His Fourth Symphony has a simple structure, with its means of expression being controlled and measured whilst still being luscious and charming. The first movement is typical with its melodious scoring. The second is like a romance or Lied, while the third movement is a very concise Scherzo with two trios. The finale shares the character of, and has thematic similarities with, the first movement and concludes a beautiful whole. This work is among his most supreme music as regards harmony, grace and atmosphere.