Hans Gál (just like Egon Wellész, who
emigrated to Oxford) is receiving somewhat of a revival. Being a highly
respected musicologist and composer in Austria, Gál first drew
attention to himself in England in 1928 when he won the second prize
in a Schubert centenary symphony competition. This was not identical
to the one to which Brian, Merrick, Ivimey, Holbrooke and Jacob submitted
works, but a totally independent Viennese competition in which Franz
Schmidt's Third Symphony won the First Prize. He had to emigrate, due
to his Jewish descent, to England in 1938. The choice of England came
about at the invitation of Donald Francis Tovey who had been on the
jury of the above competition. Gál became librarian at the Reid
Music Library, but was interned in 1940 as a possible "enemy collaborator".
In 1945 he was appointed lecturer of Edinburgh University. Gál's
compositional output covers some seventy years; he did not cease composing
until shortly before his death.
The repertoire recorded here, in part written in collaboration
with cellist and mandolinist Vinzenz Hladky, may be an acquired taste,
and certainly it is only a sidepath in Gálís oeuvre. Produced,
mastered and edited by Gál's grandson, we find in these works
a charming (sometimes nearly Viennese) and sometimes moderately modern
"symphonic" contrapuntal style. The performances are of particular strength
and intensity and simultaneously draw on a very special raffinement.
The somewhat lightweight Sinfonietta, the end of the
middle movement of which is especially charming, actually received its
public premiere performance only in 2002 by the present performers.
The Suite Op. 59b, more than the "orchestral" compositions, concentrates
the musical thought even more and offers very delicate music. This sometimes
put me in mind of Lennox Berkeley. There are also hints of old Italian
dance forms. The Sarabande recalls, in a way, Gál's Hungarian
ancestry. The Browning incidental music was composed at a time when
Gál had returned to Vienna having just been dismissed from his
position as Principal of the Mainz Conservatoire due to his Jewishness.
Obviously he tried to avoid offending the authorities with the least
trait of "Entartetheit". Instead he wrote strongly contrapuntal music
clearly derived from tradition, with very poetic results (though the
performers lack some of the delicacy of the "totally plucked" works).
Bella Musica Edition
Bella Musica Edition (Antes Edition)
D- 77815 BÜHL
Telephone: +49 (0)7223-98550
Telefax: +49 (0)7223-985566