1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gade, Niels Wilhelm
GADE, NIELS WILHELM (1817–1890), Danish composer, was born at Copenhagen, on the 22nd of February 1817, his father being a musical instrument maker. He was intended for his father’s trade, but his passion for a musician’s career, made evident by the ease and skill with which he learnt to play upon a number of instruments, was not to be denied. Though he became proficient on the violin under Wexschall, and in the elements of theory under Weyse and Berggreen, he was to a great extent self-taught. His opportunities of hearing and playing in the great masterpieces were many, since he was a member of the court band. In 1840 his Aladdin and his overture of Ossian attracted attention, and in 1841 his Nachklänge aus Ossian overture gained the local musical society’s prize, the judges being Spohr and Schneider. This work also attracted the notice of the king, who gave the composer a stipend which enabled him to go to Leipzig and Italy. In 1844 Gade conducted the Gewandhaus concerts in Leipzig during Mendelssohn’s absence, and on the latter’s death became chief conductor. In 1848, on the outbreak of the Holstein War, he returned to Copenhagen, where he was appointed organist and conductor of the Musik-Verein. In 1852 he married a daughter of the composer J. P. E. Hartmann. He became court conductor in 1861, and was pensioned by the government in 1876—the year in which he visited Birmingham to conduct his Crusaders. This work, and the Frühlingsfantasie, the Erlkönigs Tochter, Frühlingsbotschaft and Psyche (written for Birmingham in 1882) have enjoyed a wide popularity. Indeed, they represent the strength and the weakness of Gade’s musical ability quite as well as any of his eight symphonies (the best of which are the first and fourth, while the fifth has an obbligato pianoforte part). Gade was distinctly a romanticist, but his music is highly polished and beautifully finished, lyrical rather than dramatic and effective. Much of the pianoforte music, Aquarellen, Spring Flowers, for instance, enjoyed a considerable vogue, as did the Novelletten trio; but Gade’s opera Mariotta has not been heard outside the Copenhagen opera house. He died at Copenhagen on the 21st of December 1890.
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