Toccata Classics has released several volumes of Hans Gal’s music. And in the process, I think, helped audiences rediscover his remarkable music. Gal’s career in his native Austria was cut short with the arrival of the Nazis.
Because of his Jewish ancestry, he was forced to flee and settled in England in 1940. Although well-respected in his adopted country, his music never regained the prominence it had before the war.
Part of the reason may have to do with Gal’s style. He continued to write in a post-Romantic style that changed very little over time. During his later life, he was considered outdated.
But recordings like this one let us hear the merits of Gals music, regardless of how they fit the fashions of the time.
Gal was a masterful composer, and that’s obvious in every one of these works for the viola.
The Suite Concertante for Viola and Orchestra is a tightly-constructed 20-minute work of five short movements. Gal wrote the piece to be performed with either orchestra or piano, solo viola, or solo alto saxophone. And yet there’s nothing generic about the sound. Gal makes some interesting choices in his orchestration, playing effectively off the sound of the viola.
The Suite Concertante gets its world recording premiere with this release, as does the Trio for Oboe, Violin, and Viola.
When Gal first arrived in the UK, he was interred as a potentially hostile alien. This trio is one of the first works he completed after his release. Gal was a life-long student of Bach. The work is actually a set of three-part inventions woven together. The counterpoint is flawless. It’s a charming work of simple beauty.
Violist Hanna Pakkala performs these works with great understanding. Her playing yields a rich, singing tone that highlights the inherent lyricism of Gal’s music.
Hans Gal: Music for Viola, Vol. 1
Hanna Pakkala, viola; Reijo Tunkkari, violin; Takuya Takashima, oboe; Irina Zahharenkova, piano
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra; Sakari Oramo, conductor