Notes and Editorial Reviews
Solo Cello Sonata. Solo Cello Suite. Cello and Piano Sonata
Alfia Nakipbekova (vc); Jakob Fichert (pn)
TOCCATA TOCC0043 (61:95)
Hans Gál (1890–1987) was born into a cultured Jewish family that lived in a suburb of Vienna. He studied piano, first unwillingly and later with enjoyment. What he seemed to like most was composing. In 1929, with the support of such famous conductors as Fritz Busch and Wilhelm Furtwängler, he became director of the conservatory in Mainz, Germany. He was fired
in 1933 because of his ethnicity. Hitler did not allow Jews to hold positions as teachers, and Gál’s compositions, one of which was a popular comic opera, could no longer be staged. After a futile move back to Vienna, Gál left for Great Britain where, unfortunately, he was interned as an enemy alien. All this time he continued to compose, however. He wrote the
for two violins and flute, the only instruments to be had in the camp where he was held. After the war, he finally attained a position that fit his abilities at the University of Edinburgh where he was active in the creation of the Edinburgh Festival. He was a major player in that city’s musical scene from 1948 to his death in 1987. On this disc we hear a sonata for cello and piano from 1953 and two works for unaccompanied cello from 1982, written when the composer was 92. If Rossini called the music he composed after his early retirement
Sins of My Old Age,
I guess these Gál pieces are the mitzvahs of his seniority. What a survivor he was! How wonderful that he could still work productively late in his life!
All of the pieces on this disc were written in the United Kingdom. The earliest piece is the 1953 sonata. We immediately hear the influence of Brahms in the dark opening. Although he was not a cellist, Gál certainly knew how to accent the best features of the instrument, and Alfia Nakipbekova, an artist from far-off Kazakhstan, knows how to make her cello sing. German-born pianist Jakob Fichert plays with a Brahmsian palette of wine-colored tones. The style of this most interesting composition looks back 100 years with 20th-century eyes. The second movement requires a light touch and the players respond with grace and alacrity as they converse equally with each other. The last movement starts off sadly, and I wonder if Gál was remembering friends who had not made it through the war. However, he follows this with a happy duet he characterizes as energetic. Perhaps it is his song of triumph over all the adversity that life had handed him.
The Solo Cello Sonata and the Solo Cello Suite are rather similar works that feature the virtuosity of Nakipbekova. I don’t doubt that she will become better-known in the West. While Gál’s works are melodic, they are not in a 19th century style; he found his own unique voice and wrote in a style that now seems to be in line with the work of 21st-century melodists. The first and shorter piece consists of a propulsive Andante, a lilting Minuet, and a final Vivace with a gorgeous cadenza at the end. The suite has four movements and, after a short introduction, treats us to a Fughetta with a catchy tune. The Alla Marcia is lighthearted, too; perhaps the marchers are a child and his stuffed animals. The Cavatina is a wordless aria for a velvet-voiced alto played with a delicious legato on the instrument that most closely resembles that voice. The finale is a Rondino that ends the suite in a sumptuous and traditional manner.
Nakipbekova and Fichert are a most accomplished duo and their playing is recorded in clear and present sound.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
Cello Sonata, Op. 109a: I. Allegro comodo
Cello Sonata, Op. 109a: II. Quasi menuetto lento
Cello Sonata, Op. 109a: III. Vivace
Cello Suite, Op. 109b: Introduzione e Fughetta
Cello Suite, Op. 109b: Alla marcia
Cello Suite, Op. 109b: Cavatina
Cello Suite, Op. 109b: Rondino
Cello Sonata, Op. 89: I. Moderato ma agitato
Cello Sonata, Op. 89: II. Poco vivace
Cello Sonata, Op. 89: III. Adagio - Allegro energico
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