Hans Gál Chamber Music Volume 3 – Consistent quality

This installment of Toccata Classics’ Hans Gál series feature works from very different times in the composer’s life. Although there are stylistic differences between them, there’s a consistency of quality and craftsmanship throughout.

The earliest (and largest) work is the 1914 Piano Quartet in B-flat major. Gál builds on foundations laid by Brahms and Dvorak. The themes are big and broad. Gal manipulates his material in interesting ways, especially harmonically. It’s a wonderful encapsulation of the Viennese aesthetic that war would soon sweep away.

In 1934, Hans Gál wrote a Sonatina in F major for his son. This musical present was composed at a time when the Gáls and other Austrian Jews were in extreme danger. Not a hint of that can be found in this music. The sonatina — written with his son’s abilities in mind — is simple and charming.

The technical demands of the Three Sonatinas for violin and piano, Op. 71 are set quite higher. Gál composed these in 1956 for professional players. The works are quite tonal, but the harmonies pared down from the lushness of the 1914 Piano Quartet.

Violinist Katalin Kertész plays in a clean, understated manner. Her performances give the late sonatinas a somewhat elegiac and wistful quality. Pianist Sarah Beth Briggs matches her restraint, bringing just the right emotional weight to these violin and piano works.

Not so the Piano Quartet. Here the full ensemble embraces the late-Romantic aesthetic. This is the music of big emotion and big gestures, and the musicians dig into it with gusto.

Hans Gál: Chamber Music, Vol. 3
Katalin Kertész, violin; Nichola Blakey, viola; Cressida Nash, cello; Sarah Beth Briggs, piano
Toccata Classics TOCC 0433

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