David Le Page (violin), Christopher Allan (cello), Diane Clark (flute) & Sally Harrop (clarinet) [Gál]
Orchestra of the Swan
Recorded 5-6 December 2011 in Civic Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon, England
CD No: AVIE RECORDS AV2231 Duration: 73 minutes Reviewed: May 2012
Hans Gál & Schumann – Symphony 4 (Gál) & Symphony 2 (Schumann) [Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods; Avie Records]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Avie here continues its survey of the music of Hans Gál (1890-1987) with the first recording of his Fourth Symphony, the second Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods release coupling Gál’s and Robert Schumann’s four symphonies. (Gál authored sympathetically about Schumann’s music. Avie has already issued Thomas Zehetmair’s recording of Gál’s first two symphonies; maybe Zehetmair will go on to also record Gál’s foursome.)
Gál’s (36-minute) Fourth Symphony dates from 1974, the composer in his mid-eighties and remaining a creative force, and is scored for four soloists and a Classical-sized orchestra. Four also informs the number of movements. It’s a bewitching work. Anyone responding to Richard Strauss’s last music (such as Horn Concerto No.2, Metamorphosen, and Capriccio), often referred to as ‘autumnal’, will find much to like in Gál’s expressive and pastoral first movement. The pirouetting scherzo owes something to Columbine and Harlequin (of commedia dell’arte fame); the slow movement is deeply-felt; and the finale is entitled ‘Buffoneria’ and is a delight. This first recording of Gál 4 is admirable, players whether soloists or ensemble at the top of their game), the music’s deep-seated expertise unravelled for the listener’s pleasure.
Robert Schumann’s Second is one of the greatest of symphonies. Period! It’s a wonderful outpouring, at once deeply personal and vividly outgoing. Energy and eloquence combine for a score that simply stays fresh, thrilling and entrancing with each and every outing (even surviving the dodgy ones!). Kenneth Woods and his willing band of Swans give a superb performance, lithe, neat, nimble, poetic (the glorious slow movement really touches the heart) and passionate. A chamber performance it may be, but there’s no lack of power and passion when required and it’s also a reading studded with detail: woodwinds, brass and timpani revealingly balanced with the strings (violins helpfully antiphonal).
If I am ever sent off to that desert island and can grab a Schumann 2 before embarking, I would take Sawallisch’s Staatskapelle Dresden version while bemoaning the leaving-behind of Celibidache and Boult (very different readers of this symphony), but Woods and Swan are right up there, charting this marvellous work with a very special dedication and insight.