CD Review- Classical CD Reviews, Gavin Dixon on Gal/Krasa Complete String Trios
Music by the Theresienstadt composers comes with all sorts of historical and political baggage, and while the musical qualities of Ullmann, Krása, Klein and their colleagues are now widely appreciated, their works are usually presented together and in isolation from anything else. This approach is defensible in some musical respects, particularly through the fact that each of the composers who worked at Theresienstadt was transformed by the experience, leading them to write music they would never have contemplated on the outside. But the ghetto approach to the presentation of these works perpetuates the injustice that created it. With that in mind, it is all the more laudable that two Theresienstadt works by Hans Krása are programmed here with the Gál. The camp makes its presence felt in the terseness of Krása’s musical prose; his message is concentrated because his days are numbered. Even so, there are interesting stylistic links between the two composers. The Brahms in Krása’s music is mediated by Schoenberg, whereas Gál takes his direct. Dance forms underpin the more energetic passages in both composers’ works, but in both cases the links with any actual folk tradition are tenuous.
Ensemble Epomeo does both composers a great service with their precise, lively and stylistically astute performances. The clarity in all the textures allows both men’s contrapuntal innovations to shine through. There is atmosphere here too (helped by the warm recorded sound) and the long movements of both Gál works are fabulously involving, with the ensemble leading the ear through the composers various arguments and corollaries.
Nobody is suggesting that any of this music is being rediscovered or saved from terminal neglect. In fact, both composers are well represented on disc, at least in terms of the number of commercial recordings each has to his name. But the quality of these performances may help to initiate a new era in the reception of their works, and especially of Gál’s. His Serenade definitely deserves a central place in the recital repertoire, even if it requires performances of this high standard to make its many qualities fully apparent.