Hans Gál is now healthily represented on disc, a state of affairs that looks set to continue given, in particular, the discs of symphonies, chamber music and solo piano music that have been issued of late. The latest disc by the composer to come my way is the music for cello.
The Sonatas for Cello solo 109a and 109b were written in 1982 and are amongst the very last works completed by Gál, then in his early 90s. Op.109a is written in three movements and evokes Bach but wholly within Gál’s frame of reference. Its first movement moves through motifs and themes with great fluidity but technical control, uncovering and exploring some rather memorable melodic lines. There’s pawkiness in the central minuet with an emphatic bass drone effect, and the finale is an exciting, rather Hungarian-influenced affair.
Its opus companion is in four movements this time. Highlights include a strongly characterised march second movement, with a ration of humour, and the way Gal evokes Bach in the Cavatina with such elegance. Not the least treasurable parts of this sonata, which is a touch more varied than the Op.109a (though it’s not necessarily the better work), is the neatly angular gigue finale. The Cello Sonata is a much earlier work, dating from 1953. It carries with it a certain nostalgic charge, its fugal feints and lyricism part of a classical, Viennese lineage. Amidst the lyrical moments there are suggestions of unease, though these are put out of mind by the delightful chase-tag of the central scherzo-like movement. There’s a brief Adagio introduction to the finale proper, which brings out Gal’s freewheeling side.
These valuable performances include world premieres in the case of the Op.109 solo sonatas. The Cello Sonata has been recorded before. The nimble and authoritative performers in Toccata’s disc are Alfia Nakipbekova, the second half of whose surname will alert one to the fact that she was cellist in The Bekova Trio. She plays with warm tone, controlled vibrato and eloquent musicianship. Jakob Fichert is the admirable pianist, responding to the Sonata’s twists and turns with a keen ear for balance and texture. The recording (two locations) and documentation, as so often with this label, are admirable.