> Hans Gal mandolin [JS]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Hans GÁL (1890-1987)
Music for and with mandolin:-

Capriccio for plucked orchestra (1949);
Sinfonietta No. 2 in E minor Op. 86 (1966);
Suite for three mandolins Op. 59b (c.1955);
Lyric Suite on Robert Browning's dramatic poem "Pippa Passes" (1934).
Sandra Stahlheber (mezzo-soprano), Heidrun Burkart, Alexander Becker, Jörg Becker, Sonja Wiedemer (mandolin), Brigitte Sauer (flute), Barbara Mauch-Heinke (violin), Ulrich Ziegler (viola), Gregor Herrmann (cello)
Badisches Zupforchester/Volker Gerland.
Rec 1996-2000
(UK distribution: Kingdom Records Ltd., Elstree Business Centre, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Herts. WD6 1RX)
ANTES BM-CD 31.9177 [65.00?]

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).

Jürgen Schaarwächter


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