The Recorder Music of Hans Gál

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GÁL: Concertino for Treble Recorder & Piano. Sonata for Recorder Solo. 3 Small Pieces for Piano. 4 Bagatelles. 3 Intermezzi for Treble Recorder or Flute & Harpsichord or Pian. Moment Musical for Treble Recorder / Sabrina Frey, rec; Bernhard Parz, pno / TyxArt TXA 19140

Hans Gál, the most romantic of “modern” composers, wrote a great deal of music that is pleasing to listen to but not so treacly that you want to stop it shortly after it begins. This is because his music was constantly informed by subtle harmonic shifts, using unorthodox chord positions that ever-so-slightly moved the tonality around without leaning too heavily in the direction of bitonal or atonal music.

These pieces for recorder (blockflute) and/or piano, with the exception of the 1933 3 Small Pieces for Piano, were composed in Gál’s later years, between 1958 and 1983, when he was 93 years old. Considering this, it’s amazing that he was able to convey such a light, almost youthful feeling to these scores. The “Scherzo lirico” of the Concertino, composed when he was 71, dances through the listener’s mind in a most delightful way while the third-movement “Intermezzo” reveals a bitonal march.

The Sonata for Recorder Solo (1983), written when Gál was 93 years old, has no harmonic underpinning by a keyboard instrument. Thus it is consistently tonal and, to my ears, less interesting than the Concertino, although I did like the last movement. Interestingly, the 3 Small Pieces for Piano, though written a half-century earlier, sound very much in the same vein, except that, since it is written for a keyboard instrument, Gál introduces some witty harmony. Once again it is the last movement, here a sprightly “Scherzo,” that grabs one’s attention due to Gál’s unusual harmony and sense of humor. His sense of humor is also evident in the opening “Intrata” of the 4 Bagatelles for solo recorder.

The 3 Intermezzi, written for either flute or recorder with either piano or harpsichord, is played here with the piano accompanying the recorder, which I felt was a mistake. If you use a transverse flute, you should use a piano, but if you use a recorder I think you should use a harpsichord. Nonetheless, the performance is an excellent one. The music is harmonically interesting, but here has small witty moments rather than completely humorous movements. We end with the Moment Musical for recorder solo from 1958.

The performances given here by Sabrina Frey and Bernhard Parz are simply wonderful, balancing Gál’s seriousness and humor in equal measure. A very delightful CD.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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