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Hans Gal Piano music

Drei Skizzen op.7 Suite fur Clavier op.24 Sonate op.28
Sonatine No.1 op.58 No.1 Sonatine No.2 op.58 No.2 Drei Kleine Stucke op.64
Three Preludes op.65 24 Preludes op.83

Martin Jones (piano)

Nimbus NI51572 (2 CDs)


Hans Gal was one of the numerous Jewish cultural figures who arrived in Britain as refugees from Nazism. This is the twentieth anniversary of his death – he lived till 97, well-respected as composer and musicologist, and his music seems to be enjoying a small renaissance, with a number of recent recordings. This double CD, indeed, goes head-to-head with the 3 disc complete piano music set on Avie by Leon McCawley, which has slightly stronger production values.

The Viennese Ferris Wheel decorating the cover of this CD gives one the clue that listening to these discs is like an exercise in Austro-Hungarian nostalgia. The booklet refers to Brahms (an obvious influence on Op 7), and indeed to Prokofiev in the late works as influences.

But one can easily hear echoes of a good number of unnamed composers from the fin-de-siecle and later, Wolf, Mahler, Strauss and Hindemith. Gal writes with great facility and technical command; these are extremely pleasant discs to listen to, and Jones is an able interpreter, fluent in the transition from late romantic to modern.

The 24 Preludes, written when the composer was eighty and recovering in hospital, are a particularly engaging set of miniatures.

The Wyastone recording (seemingly unaccredited) is clearer in focus than some of the early Nimbus offerings, but remains more resonant and clangy than the current fashion for close dryness.

Gal is too derivative in style that it is likely he will be regularly spoken of as a ‘great composer.’ But he should clearly not be allowed to fall into neglect, and the current interest in him (partly organised by his family descendents) is welcome.

Ying Chang