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Hans Gál Symphonies, Concertos and Sonatas

Gál & Elgar Cello Concertos

Antonio Meneses
Northern Sinfonia/Claudio Cruz

Avie AV2237

The most recent release in the growing Gál discography may prove one of the most important in the posthumous revival of the orchestral music of this near-centenerian, who spent his latter life in UK. After release from internment as an "enemy alien" he settled in Scotland and taught in Edinburgh University for many years.

Whilst it may be a long road before the symphonies promoted by Kenneth Woods become regular concert fare (he can't be everywhere !) the chances for this marvellous cello concerto to become part of "the repertoire" are far better, since soloists play a big part in publicising concertos which they favour.

Composed in c.1944, it is an endearing, lyrical and expressive work of consummate professionalism, coping with all the pitfalls of the medium, with ample scope for displaying virtuosity too. Its craftmanship is consummate and it is of a timeless appeal, in no way limited to its period of origin, now nearly a century ago.

Here it is coupled with Antonio Meneses' fine account of the Elgar (popularised by the legendary Jacqueling du Pré above all, and secure in every master-cellist's repertoire) and Meneses' appraisal of it as "a jewel of a concerto that should be part of the normal repertoire of all cellists in the world" is no self-serving publicity hyperbole.

Meneses looks to students to take it up; the CD should be in every college/academy library and aspiring young cellists should be vying with each other to bring it to the audiences at their major concerts (such as London RAM's Friday lunchtimes public concerts).

Which one will be the first?

I recommend it strongly to collectors and have purposely placed it at the head of an extensive Hans Gál page.

Peter Grahame Woolf (May 2012)


Gál/Schumann Symphonies Nos. 3
Gál Symphony No 4/Schumann Symphony No 2

Orchestra of The Swan/Kenneth Woods

Avie CD AV2230 & 2231

With the lighter No 4 (Sinfonia concertante Op 105) Kenneth Woods continues his distinguished Gál cycle recorded at Stratford-on-Avon. This, with solo flute, clarinet, violin & cello is the aged composer's farewell to composition, a lovely work which reminds one of Haydns' sinfonia concertante with violin, cello, oboe and bassoon soloists. It ends with a Buffoneria !

No. 3 is a grander affair, and each is coupled with a Schumann symphony, Woods' account of Schumann No 2 with his chamber orchestra overturning my disregard of it as my unfavourite of the canon.

Gal's Symphony No 2 will be recorded later this year, and No 1 to complete Kenneth Woods' Gal/Schumann series in 2013. Slow, but worth waiting, and perhaps the totality will eventually make a boxed set?

All in all, this is a worthy endeavour, which should keep the name and music of holocaust survivor Hans Gál (1890-1987) before the public as long as CDs continue to be bought...

Peter Grahame Woolf

GÁL Symphony No. 2

SCHUBERT Symphony No.9
Northern Sinfonia / Thomas Zehetmair.

Avie AV2225 2cds

Defying notions of "originality" and jostling contemporary idioms, Hans Gál's 2nd symphony offers instead the confidence and deep security of a composer who had kept faith with his visions through a troubled, long life, much of it spent in exile in his newest home in Scotland.

The Gál revival, with a Hans Gál Society and active relatives on his behalf, is a worthy endeavour, supported with deserved assurance by Avie in this well prepared series. You will aready have favourite versions of the Schubert, about which Gál is quoted perceptively of its "monumentality in quiet repose" in comparison with Beethoven's 9th - "an unbridgeable gulf between those two contemporaries". Gál characterises Schubert as of "quiet serenity unclouded by stresses of will", and that serves to characterise this undramatic, mostly serene symphony, which will satisfy audiences coming to it afresh in the 21st Century.

The excellent notes are by Hans Gal's daughter Eva, and this series is an important contribution to the growing collection of recorded music, which will still remain infrequent to encounter in orchestral concerts, for which the explosion of CDs is a proud repository for the revival of unfairly forgotten fine music.

GÁL Symphony No. 2; SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4

Orchestra of the Swan / Kenneth Woods

Avie AV2232

A surprising bonanza for Gál fans; a second recording of his 2nd symphony, this one a single disc because Schumann's 4th is compact, in contrast with the longest of Schubert's

Peter Grahame Woolf

For wisdom and a long term perspectve from one who knew Gál in later life, see Martin Anderson on The Classical Review

Peter Grahame Woolf

Violin Concerto, Violin Concertino & Triptych for Orchestra.

Annette-Barbara Vogel,
Northern Sinfonia / Kenneth Woods

Avie CD AV2146 (World Premiere Recordings, 2009 at The Sage, Gateshead)

A labour of love by Annette-Barbara Vogel for this near-centenarian composer (1890-1987), the revival of his violin music a long cherished project completed with co-operation in its production from members of his family.

Hans Gál's career was derailed by Nazism, but he eventually settled as an academic in Edinburgh, continuing to compose and amass a formidable catalogue of well crafted music which catches the ear and holds concentration.

The two concertante works for violin from the '30s, excellently played and recorded, are delightful, provided you accept that Gál was one of his generation not caught up in the European modernist trends. They both merit consideration by up-coming violinists seeking out repertoire.

Like a Franz Schmidt, Gál was content to compose within the tradition of late romanticism, and it served him well for a large catalogue of music which merits thorough investigation and live performance.

The Op 100 orchestral work is substantial and could well have been put out as a Symphony. A splendid CD which should give pleasure and satisfaction to collectors and which deserves to feature on radio programmes everywhere.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Classical Source [Editor],

Hans Gál Violin Sonatas

Two Violin Sonatas and Suite for Violin and Piano

Annette Barbara Vogel, violin, Juhani Lagerspetz, piano.

Avie AV2182

For those who enjoy highly charged romanticism I would recommend the violinist Anette-Barbara Vogel’s new CD.

Along with pianist Juhani Lagerspetz she plays little known composer Hans Gál’s two Violin Sonatas and his Suite for Violin and Piano.

Born in 1890 near Vienna Hans Gal never felt the need to depart from tonality as did some of his contemporaries, believing “the creative process stems from the deepest layers of the inner psyche, a place impenetrable to the impressions of moment”.

The playing on this CD is formidable; it is only a slight shame that Annette Barbara Vogel’s high register does not come across as well as her rich low register.

Anna Michel

Read also review in Audio Audition [Editor]

Hans Gal - piano duos

Goldstone & Clemmow

Divine Arts dda25098

Recorded in 2001, this passed me by and indeed I have nothing of "Olympia".

Handsomely re-released by Divine Arts a decade on, in the full flood of the Gal revival, it is sheer joy, now that we're no longer afraid of music that isn't completely "up to date".

Goldstone & Clemmow supply ideal programme notes, quoting Gal's reminder of the joys of piano duet playing, a habit "sadly diminished".

Delightful music whose time has come; put it high on your list of piano recordings to buy.

Peter Grahame Woolf