Hans GAL (1890-1987)
Symphony No. 3 in A op. 62 (1951-52) [34:39]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 3 E flat major Rhenish op. 97 (1850) [31:37]
Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods
rec. 6-7 Dec 2010, Civic Hall, Stratford. DDD
AVIE AV2230 [66:16]
I don't hold with the practice of coupling the classical familiar with the 20th century unfamiliar. I wonder if it does sell more discs than, in this case, placing two Gál symphones on the same CD. The Gál-curious or Gál fanatics will buy these discs regardless ... everyone knows that. Do people really want another Schumann Rhenish never mind how fine it is? For me it is dilution not addition.
Gál was an Austrian who studied composition with Eusebius Mandyczewski. He fled Germany in the Hitlerite 1930s and moved to Edinburgh for the rest of his long life. His Sinfonietta won what must have been the Austrian division of the 1928 Schubert Centenary prize.
Gál's Third Symphony had its premiere in 1954 on Vienna Radio and after an isolated outing with the CBSO under Rudolf Schwarz sank back into the choking dust. Its style was out of step with the age into which it was born. Woods' recording marks its revival.
Gál's Symphony takes a bow after some six decades. The Andantino is the first of three movements. Its placid lyrical unfolding relates to the facility and felicity of Franz Schmidt's silky string writing. Gal is more easeful and is direct and largely without the 'acrid' overtones that arch over Schmidt's symphonies. The woodwind writing is also most appealing in a Schubertian way that sometimes changes to Mahlerian. The music is touching and yields immediate pleasure. Until we get to the finale the accent is on slow release and reflective melodic material. Here Brahmsian woodland zephyrs are at play; hardly a gale, though. The identity is idyllic rather than dramatic so this is more Pastoral than Eroica.
The Schumann is very enjoyably done. Woods draws out a rhythmically taut performance. The shivering excitement is notable and the undulant poetic movement of the Rhine no less so. My only real criticism is that I would have liked greater balance concentration on the horn bench. As a presence they should bloom and whoop more than they do here. Kubelik on both DG and Sony had engineers who brought out their contribution with greater and confident zeal. It may not be the most natural of balances but we are, after all, appraising the recording art not a facsimile of what might be heard in the concert auditorium ... and even that depends on so many variables - not least where you are sitting.
The Orchestra of the Swan and Kenneth Woods are recording all four Gál symphonies each coupled with a work from the classical heartland. We should not overlook Woods’ Avie Gál Violin Concerto and other violin concertante works by Gál also on Avie.
A revealing coupling then. It's only grouches like this reviewer who bemoan not having the Gál symphonies two at a time and without the 'distraction' of other more popular works.
Gál's Third Symphony takes a welcome bow after some six decades.