Psyche, Op. 60, concert piece for soli, choir and orchestra
Gade, Niels Wilhelm
Niels Gade – Psyche op.60
(b. Copenhagen, 22 February1817 – d. Copenhagen, 21 December 1890)
Born in Denmark and mostly forgotten today by many music-lovers, Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890) nevertheless established himself during the later nineteenth century as a composer of considerable talent and success. After his First Symphony was accepted and performed by Felix Mendelssohn, Gade traveled to Leipzig to pursue a multifaceted musical career abroad. In 1845 he conducted the first performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and two years later be assumed leadership of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. The following year, however, conflict broke out between Denmark and the Kingdom of Prussia; Gade immediately returned to his native land. In 1850 he was named director of the Copenhagen Musical Society and held that position until his death. Gade also served as joint director of Copenhagen’s Conservatory, and in 1867 he became sole director of the new Copenhagen Academy of Music. With an orchestra and chorus of his own he gave premiere performances of some of his own works as well as the Danish premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Following in Mendelssohn’s footsteps he also introduced Baroque music to Denmark and conducted the first Danish performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.
Psyke (published in Germany as “Psyche”), a secular oratorio or concert opera—the composer rather ambiguously called it a Conzertstück—devolves upon aspects of a complex, often-told legend: that of Psyche and Eros. (Gade’s libretto alternates between Greek names, such as “Eros” for “Cupid,” and Roman names, such as “Venus” for “Aphrodite.”) Composed in 1882 for the Birmingham Festival in England, the completed work is masterful, yet today it may strike audiences as a bit too …
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