Matthew Sharp / English Symphony Orchestra / Kenneth Woods

Hans Gal: Concertino for Cello & Strings; Solo Cello Sonata; Solo Cello Suite

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Hans Gál was an Austrian Jew who was well regarded in Germany as a composer, teacher, and conductor until it all came crashing down in 1933 and he fled. He wanted to go to America but ended up instead, at the invitation of musicologist Donald Francis Tovey, in Scotland. During World War II he was interned, not by Germany but by Britain, which considered him an enemy alien, but he was released and continued to live in Edinburgh. His music is late Romantic in style but is not derivative of any specific composer, and in his ability to shift from Schumann-like melody to dense complications he is actually quite contemporary. The three works here all come from late in Gál's career; the two solo cello works were written while he was in his nineties. Especially the Suite for solo cello, Op. 109b, alludes to Bach's solo cello suites, and cellist Matthew Sharp gives them deep resonances. Most interesting, though, is the Concertino for cello and string orchestra, where Sharp is backed by the English Symphony Orchestra under frequent Gál backer Kenneth Woods. Here the full range of Gál's vocabulary is on display, from the pure Romantic slow movement to the Straussian opening movement to the bumptious finale. The music, by a composer whose reputation is steadily rising, is never less than absorbing, and the performances here are fully committed.

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