American Record Guide

Hans Gal (1890-1987) was born near Vienna and appears to have had an early life that got him well on his way to a major career as a composer and teacher. Supported by notable musicians like Furtwangler and Richard Strauss, he became the director of the Mainz Conservatory in 1929. His many compositions were regularly performed, including operas, symphonic works, and chamber music. In 1933 Gal, with the rise of the Nazis, suffered the fate so many Jewish musicians did: he was dismissed from his position and his music was banned. He fled Germany and eventually settled in Edinburgh, where he taught at the conservatory for many years. He died there at the age of 97.

This music was composed over a 42-year period from 1916 to 1958. Gal was an excellent pianist, and his editions of the complete piano music of Brahms are among his most lasting legacies. There is no doubt that Gal’s Serbian Dances from 1916 owe something to the very popular Brahms Hungarian Dances , also for piano duet. The Concertino dates from 1934 and was composed for piano and string orchestra. Gal arranged the string parts for a second piano, and Goldstone and Clemmow shows how effective that version can be. The Impromptus were written for two amateur pianists for their Saturday Entertainments. These were not published until 1991, and the first documented public performance was by the present artists (in Edinburgh). The Marionettes (1958) are three movements based on characters from the Commedia dell’arte and conjure up some marvelous images.

As with everything to come from Goldstone and Clemmow over the past several years, this is a marvelous release. It is full of new music, performed and recorded to the highest standards. Add the artists’ excellent notes and you have a perfect way to introduce rarely heard works of the piano duo repertoire.