Saturday Chorale: Niels W. Gade | I Østen stiger Solen op | Københavns Drengekor

The first time I heard Niels Wiggo. Gade’s "Elverskud" ("The Elf King’s Daughter") I fell in love. Gade (1817 – 1890) was a Danish composer who together with his contemporary and musical partner J.P.E. Hartmann set the tone of Danish music for fifty years. He taught both Grieg and Nielsen and you can hear his influence throughout their works. (If you like Nielsen and Grieg try listening to some of Gade’s stuff I’ve put one playlist of his first symphony, and another of his overture "Efterklange af Ossian" ("Echoes of Ossian") at the bottom of the post).

Gade started out as Nationalist-Romantic composer, his First Symphony and the overture "Efterklange af Ossian" (Echoes of Ossian) are prime examples of Danish National-Romantic composition. (Don’t let that put you off, it didn’t put Mendelssohn off). Gade and his music were taken up by Mendelssohn with enthusiasm.  Mendelssohn gave Gade’s first symphony its first performance, and subsequently became his firm friend and musical mentor. Under Mendelssohn’s influence Gade abandoned National-Romanticism in favour of a more classicised Romanticism — a style he stuck with for the remainder of his life.

Actually, that’s not quite true, he reverted to Danish National-Romanticism for his choral work “Elverskud” (The Elf King’s Daughter) which surely ranks as one of the best loved pieces Danish music of all time. The libretto by Edmund Lobedanz tells the story of a young bridegroom who was bewitched into visiting the elves in their hill. His visit takes place the night before his wedding and he manages to resist the enchantments laid on him by the Elf King’s daughter. Infuriated by his successful resistance she lays a spell on him that so weakens him that he drops dead while greeting his wedding guests. Lobedanz used several old Danish folk ballads in his libretto and that, coupled with the fact that Gade scored it to be well within the capabalities of Danish orchestras and choral societies of his era, ensured its success and enduring popularity.

I’ve picked three performances of "Morgensang" ("Morning Song"), which every Dane calls "I Østen stiger Solen op" ("The Sun rises from the East") for you to enjoy. The first is by the Copenhagen Boys Choir (Københavns Drengekor) it’s a nice performance rich and smooth. But to be truthful, I’ve picked their performance mostly because of very happy memories of attending their concerts. The second  performance I’ve picked is by the Herning Kirkes drengekor it works really well both musically and as a video, but the third and final performance is my favourite it’s performed by the Treenighedskirkens Drengekor in Esbjerg (Church of the Holy Trinity Boys Choir, Esbjerg). It’s from their last performance of their Summer 2010 tour of England and was performed in St Mary Magdalene Church, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, and it’s very beautiful singing.

Lyrics are below the fold. Enjoy :-)


I Østen stiger Solen op

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I Østen stiger Solen op,

den spreder Guld på Sky,

gaaer over Hav og Bjergetop,

gaaer over Land og By;

den kommer fra den faure Kyst,

hvor Paradiset laae,

den bringer Lys og Liv og Lyst

til Store og til Smaa.

Og med Guds Sol udgaaer fra Øst

en himmelsk Glands på Jord,

et Glimt fra Paradisets Kyst,

hvor Livets Abild groer.

Gade Symphony No: 1

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Gade Efterklangen Af Ossian

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