Musical Opinion

The work of the long-lived and multi-gifted musician Hans Gál has recently been receiving welcome attention from various record companies and concert-giving organisations, and it is with particular pleasure that I welcome this outstanding new recording of his music for two pianos and piano duet.

This is not the place to go into great detail about this immensely-gifted composer, just one of many who suffered under the Nazis and found welcome refuge in Britain. As a boy in Vienna, Gál’s family lived above a patisserie, presided over by a very elderly lady who sat in a big chair by the shop’s entrance, half on the pavement.

She would often hear Hans practicing the piano as a boy and one day told him that the ‘old gentleman’ would have loved to hear him play—the ‘old gentleman’ being Beethoven, who lived above her parents’ bakery, and whom she knew—and was a little afraid of—as a child. She had been born in 1820, and was seven when Beethoven died; she was in her 80s when she told Hans this story. Hans Gál’s music for piano duet is very varied, from the early Serbian Dances Opus 3, through the Concertino for two pianos to the delightful, relatively late Three Marionettes, and other finely-wrought pieces. The performances are uniformly admirable, and this important issue is a most welcome addition to the catalogue. ***** (five stars awarded)

—Robert Matthew-Walker