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CD Review

Hans Gál

The Complete Piano Duos

  • 3 Marionettes, Op. 74
  • Serbian Dances, Op. 3
  • Concertino, Op. 43
  • 3 Impromptus
  • Pastoral Tune
Anthony Goldstone, piano
Caroline Clemmow, piano
Divine Art DDA25098 59min
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Hans Gál was born near Vienna in 1890. Of Hungarian Jewish descent, this composer was one of the many who fell victim to the Nazi jackboot, and later on to the so called "atonal' movement, which was the fashion during the 60's and early 70's. The early part of his career was very successful; indeed, he won the Austrian State Prize for Composition in 1915, but the First World War left Austria economically and politically in ruins, and Gál went to Germany to forge anew his musical dream. The 1920's brought him considerable satisfaction, and his operas, in particular, achieved great popularity. With the rise of Nazism in 1933 Gál soon became "persona non grata' and his works were banned. The "Anschluss" of 1938 forced the composer to flee to England, where a chance meeting with Donald Tovey led to his becoming a lecturer at Edinburgh University for many years. By the time of his death in 1987 aged 97, Gál's catalogue included symphonies, concertos, operas, cantatas, chamber and instrumental music and a fair number of songs. Just before he died he was able to witness recognition, albeit very lukewarm, of his major works, but it is only of late that his wonderful music has started its resurgence. His humility and integrity allowed him to be ever faithful to the Austro-German classic-romantic tradition, and his language is warmly human and intimately loving, reflecting the charming character of this simple yet hugely gifted musician.

The pieces on this disc are superb examples of his craftsmanship and natural ability to write music that is both tuneful yet profoundly uplifting, and the works cover a considerable time-span of Gál's composing career; 42 years to be exact, from 1916 to 1958. Although all the movements are of a short duration, each one has its own unmistakable appeal and the programme is a conglomeration of delights that are as ingenious as they are witty and wistful.

The duettists Goldstone and Clemmow are two of today's foremost pianists that need no introduction and their growing imaginative discography is a testament to their consummate art of interpretation. This innovative programme is a "tour-de-force' of beautifully executed four-hand duets and the rounded tone and assiduously effected tempo relationships will certainly satisfy even the most fastidious of keyboard "aficionados'. Phrasing and attention to detail are exemplary, while colour and atmosphere are consistently at the fore. An invaluable addition to the still lean Gál discography in superb sound and helpful annotations.

Copyright © 2012 by Gerald Fenech.