CD Review: Robert R Reilly/CNA on Gal Triptych and Violin Concerti

Robert C Reilly at the Catholic News Agency dedicates a good chunk of his monthly column for October to the music of Hans Gal:

“Austrian Jewish composer Hans Gál fled the Nazis in 1938 and eventually moved to Scotland, where he died at the ripe old age of 97. I have earlier written about his superb string quartets. Now the Avie label has released a CD with Gál’s two Violin Sonatas and the Suite for Violin and Piano (AV 2182), written between 1920 and 1935, and a second CD with his Violin Concerto, Violin Concertino, and the Triptych for Orchestra (AV 2146).

There is something expert about this music without a hint of pedantry. If it did not sound too self-congratulatory, I would say that Gál is a composer for the connoisseur. I mean this in the sense that the fineness of what he does can easily be overlooked. He does not grab your attention; you have to give it. As I noted earlier, his music in no way forces itself upon you; it has a sense of privacy. Otherwise, it is written in echt Viennese style of the pre-twelve-tone variety and without a whiff of decadence. Gál never felt the need or the desire to change that style throughout his long and productive career….

Vogel reappears as the soloist in the immensely attractive CD of Gál’s concertante works for violin. The opening Fantasiamovement of the Violin Concerto, composed at the height of Gál’s success in Germany in 1932, has an instantly memorable theme, long-lined and lyrical. Three minutes into it, you might think Vaughan Williams had a hand in it. Well before he crossed the channel, Gál was sounding like an English pastoralist. This is the first orchestral work of his that I have encountered, and it raises him even higher in my estimation. The second movement, marked Arioso, is just as beautiful and runs into the concluding, lively Rondo.

Vogel’s playing is superlative, obviously a labor of love, as is the dedicated performance of the Northern Sinfonia, under conductor Kenneth Woods. It is a measure of the damage the Nazis did that this work was not heard after 1933 until 2004. It is, I suppose, easy to imagine how music this lovely and civilized was first suppressed and then overlooked in the ideological age of the 20th century. How wonderful that Avie has revived it. The Concertino is just as delicious as the Concerto, and theTriptych from 1970 shows that Gál never lost his bearings. As you can tell, this is one of my favorite discoveries of the year.”

There is also discussion of Bruckner with Thielemann and Dresden, Tyberg from Faletta and Braunfels. A good read.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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