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Pavel HAAS (1899 – 1944)

Suite for Oboe and Piano Op.17 (1939/41) [15:37]
Stefan WOLPE (1902 – 1972)

Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1938/41) [24:07]
Hans GÁL (1890 – 1987)

Sonata for Oboe and Piano Op.85 (1964) [21:01]
Piet Van Bockstal (oboe); Yutaka Oya (piano)
Recorded: Moscow Radio House, April 2002
MEGADISC MDC 7805 [60:48]

The red thread in this apparently disparate recital is the fact that the three composers were contemporaries and all three suffered from Nazism. While belonging to different cultural backgrounds (Czech, German and Viennese) the trio were Jews. Pavel Haas, whose music is now reasonably well known mainly through Decca’s Entartete Musik series, had the most tragic fate. He was deported to Terezin and died in Auschwitz in 1944, whereas Wolpe and Gál were forced into exile, in the States and in Great Britain respectively.

Haas’s Suite for Oboe and Piano begun in 1939 was eventually completed in 1941. It clearly reflects the composer’s feelings during these difficult and perilous years, when the Nazis came to power. This comes particularly clearly through allusions to and quotes from the well-known Wenceslas chorale and a Hussite song, in which both acquire an emblematic significant: as an act of resistance against German aggression. The movement layout is unusual, in that the first two are tense and troubled, whereas the final slow movement is generally elegiac in mood. For the finale the composer attempts at to imbue it with the light of hope reflected in his reliance on the Hussite chorale.

Although composed at roughly the same time as Haas’s Suite, Wolpe’s Oboe Sonata is completely different, mainly because it does not seem to reflect on the historical and political climate of the times. It is classical in design and idiom, although it is partly dodecaphonic. The music is mainly expressive and fairly straightforward, and – on the whole – accessible and often very attractive. This is a substantial piece in four movements, of which the third is a brief, violent Scherzo marked Bitter, violent and rapid. It strongly contrasts with the other, mostly expressive and lyrical movements.

Gál’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano Op.85 is a late work composed long after he had emigrated to Great Britain in 1938. It is another substantial work in three movements, in an overtly lyrical, Post-romantic idiom, full of big, generous tunes.

This is a fine release. Dedicated and convincing readings of three fairly unusual works - all worth hearing. The recording is very good indeed, if a bit too close for some tastes; but this should not deter anyone from investigating this highly rewarding recital. Recommended.

Hubert Culot

see also Three emigrés: Gál, Gerhard and Goldschmidt


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