Gavin Dixon at Classical CD Reviews has written a perceptive new review of the latest Gal/Schumann CD from the Orchestra of the Swan, which you can read here. Mr Dixon has been one of the more consistent critics, reviewing nearly everything in the Gal project. You can read his review of volume 1 on of the Gal/Schumann project here, and his review of the Gal Violin Concerti and Triptych for Orchestra, here.
Now, please go buy a copy so we can make volume 3.
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A short sample follows:
What an exquisitely crafted piece Hans Gál’s Fourth Symphony is. The work succeeds against all the odds, facing down a range of problems from outright anachronism to a major crisis of generic identity. The subtitle “Sinfonia concertante” suggests the main title may be simplistic, and indeed four instrumentalists are promoted to starring roles in the music. Another complication is work’s continual recourse to chamber music textures, all of which are very beautiful and delicate, but rarely symphonic.
As for the anachronism, the symphony was written in 1974, a time which cared little for neo-Romantic or even neo-Classical music when written without irony. But Gál overcomes, or possibly ignores these many problems and writes a work that succeeds splendidly on its own terms. The music is civilised and contained, but never dry. It is contrapuntal but not overtly intellectual. And although its instrumental forces are limited, every player is put to good use…
Kenneth Woods now has a great deal of experience in handling the music of this proficient but always understated composer, and the symphony is given a thoroughly convincing performance…The solo group, David Le Page, Christopher Allan, Diane Clark and Sally Harrop are all similarly attuned to Gál’s sophisticated but understated aesthetic. All four are able to walk the fine line between soloist and chamber musician that the music requires.
…Woods gives the Schumann a highly Romantic reading, as if to accentuate the differences between the two works. Nevertheless, this is another fine performance, never going to any interpretive extremes, but still finding an impressively contemporary feel. All repeats are observed, as are all dynamics, articulations and tempo indications. Woods makes no concessions to the first violins in his choice of tempo for the scherzo, but they cope magnificently. And the later antiphonal sections are enhanced by the placing of the seconds on the right. In fact the stereo separation on the recoding is quite extreme, which helps to pick out the soloists in the Gál. The rits in the second movement of the Schumann are exaggerated a little too much for my taste, and the third movement adagio is just a little too understated. But all is redeemed in the finale, which is lively and energetic while always carefully controlled.
Another triumph then for Kenneth Woods and the Orchestra of the Swan. The conductor’s celebrity seems to have increased significantly over the course of this cycle… And he’s clearly on the same musical wavelength as this fine orchestra, so expect great things from their future recording projects together.