CD Review- McAlister Matheson Music on Gal/Krasa Trios
Gal and Krasa – Complete String Trios
Release date September 2012
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The Avie catalogue now boasts no fewer than ten discs featuring major works of Hans Gál (1890-1987), the Vienna-born composer who settled in Edinburgh after being forced to flee by Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938. His music is well worth hearing. Gál’s musical roots lie with Brahms and Strauss; his style ‘remained resolutely uninfluenced by the output of Schoenberg and his school’, as Conrad Wilson notes succinctly in New Grove. He has a great gift for melody and lyricism, amply demonstrated in his first work for string trio, the Serenade of 1932. It is a refreshing piece in four movements, lasting thirty minutes. The intricately contrapuntal first movement Capriccioso has a jaunty, Haydnesque feel, with lightning-fast changes of mood. There follows a congenial Cantabile with long-breathed melodic lines, a deliberate but elegant Menuetto and a crisp-textured Alla Marcia final movement imbued with humour. By 1971, when his threemovement Trio in F sharp minor Op. 104 was written, Gál’s style had moved on, as evidenced by the winding chromatic phrases of the sombre first movement – although the second movement (a cheerful, catchy kind of perpetuum mobile) has much in common with the earlier trio. The work started life as a commission for violin, viola d’amore and cello from the London Viola d’amore Society, but Gál cannily made this version for traditional string trio simultaneously. Gál and the Czech-born Hans Krása shared a Jewish heritage, but whereas Gál escaped Nazi oppression, Krása was interred in Theresienstadt where he was instrumental in organising the cultural life of the concentration camp, before dying in Auschwitz in 1944. Both his string trios were composed in the last year of his life. Tanec (Dance) is a short, unsettling work, much of it revolving around the sound-world of trains. His Passacaglia and Fuga for violin, viola and cello is more substantial, the short and very spirited fugue being preceded by a Passacaglia with a gravely beautiful opening that transforms into something quite combative. Ensemble Epomeo give eloquent and convincing performances. Should you be interested in listening further to Gál’s music, I would recommend the second and fourth symphonies, the latter having very much the feel of late Strauss.