Sonata in B flat minor for Violin and Piano, Op.17
Suite in G for Violin and Piano, Op.56
Sonata in D for Violin and Piano
Annette-Barbara Vogel (violin) & Juhani Lagerspetz (piano)
Recorded 20-22 April 2009 in St George’s, Bristol, England
CD No: AVIE RECORDS AV 2182 Duration: 61 minutes Reviewed: April 2010
Hans Gál – Music for Violin and Piano [Annette-Barbara Vogel & Juhani Lagerspetz]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
The heroic opening, assigned to the piano, of the B flat minor Sonata is arresting if somewhat undone by the instrument here being less than full-sounding; and there is also a balance problem in that the violinist is a too close in relation to the distant piano and sounds shrill; the duo element of these works is sometimes undermined, pianist as accompanist rather than partner; amazing to learn that this recording was made in the usually sympathetic St George’s, Bristol, which here sounds so empty and which makes the piano’s fortissimo treble notes quite harsh.
Nevertheless, the B flat minor work (1920) is a fine piece, sweeping and impulsive – in the first movement imagine a style that is at once personal but which reminds of Brahms and Korngold; the twists, turns and contrasts of the second movement are fascinating; and the finale has a lyrical beauty that is entrancing.
The Suite (1935) is a delight, each of the four short movements offering uncomplicated but appetising invention, somewhat spiky and reminding of Prokofiev, and including an ‘Aria’ that sings its way insouciantly into the listener’s consciousness. Hans Gál (1890-1987, from near-Vienna to Edinburgh, his exit from Austria made shortly before the beginning of World War Two) completed the other Violin Sonata in 1933 and it lay unpublished. It is both serene and troubled, the music unpredictable while always being traditional as well as springing from a deep sensibility and a warm heart.
Despite the over-bright, edgy and somewhat imbalanced recorded sound that favours the violin but doesn’t always do favours to the violinist, the important thing is to get acquainted with music that deserves wide currency; and this release is also a worthy follow-up to Avie's admirable release of Gál's complete piano music with Leon McCawley. There is no doubting Annette-Barbara Vogel’s devotion to the Gál cause or Juhani Lagerspetz's adeptness or, indeed, Avie's excellent presentation that includes an interview with Vogel as well as detailed essays on the music.