Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonatas: No. 1; No. 2. Suite for Violin and Piano
Annette-Barbara Vogel (vn); Juhani Lagerspetz (pn)
AVIE 2182 (61:12)
Annette-Barbara Vogel and Juhani Lagerspetz have combined Hans Gál’s three extended works for violin and piano in a single program. Gál (1890–1987) lived almost a century but, according to the notes, devoted more and more attention to composition after going to Scotland (he had fled from Mainz in 1933—coincidentally the year of his Second Violin Sonata—to
Vienna before finally settling in Edinburgh as a colleague of Donald Francis Tovey). As the notes point out, Gál never adopted the 12-tone system, continuing to write in his dense, chromatic—and rhapsodic—style.
The First Sonata, op. 17 (in B?-Minor—how many violin sonatas explore this darker harmonic region?), hails from 1920, which seems to have been a highly creative period in the composer’s life. Accessible though thickly textured, the work provides many opportunities in its first movement for the display of expressive musicianship, and Vogel (on a 1787 Lorenzo Storiani violin) and Lagerspetz play with assurance and dedicated championship, engaging in persuasively ecstatic discourse. The second movement, Quasi allegretto, provides playful relief, with rhythmic interplay reminiscent of the scherzo in Brahms’s Third Sonata but throaty cantabile as well—expressive manners that seem about equally congenial to the duo. Like the first movement, this one ends quietly, giving way to a lyrical finale, Adagio molto espressivo, to which the duo brings a special sensitivity; once again, the movement proceeds to a quiet ending.
The Suite in G Major, from 1935, postdates the Second Sonata, but breathes nevertheless a cleaner atmosphere than its date or the circumstances of Gál’s life at the time might suggest. The four movements (Preambulo, Capriccio, Aria, and Rondo) sound almost desiccated, though cheerful, after the moist expressivity of the First Sonata. If they don’t crackle and pop with the neoclassical energy of Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto from a few years earlier (1931), they’re bracing in their own way; Vogel and Lagerspetz seem to adjust easily to the less moist emotional climate, as well as to the almost folk-like sentiment of the third-movement Aria.
The three-movement Second Sonata, in D Major, more serenely introspective than the First, and correspondingly less concerned with heaven-storming rhapsody, nevertheless hardly lacks strength. Once again, the duo has adapted to the more restrained expressivity not only of its first movement but of the relatively brief Scherzo as well—and even of the fast section that brings the third movement to a stirring conclusion.
Collectors of the period’s music should be eager to hear and perhaps embrace Gál’s works for violin and piano, and aficionados of violin music will find in them a kind of mastery and expressivity that they’ve come to expect from the best-known works in the repertoire. For those who equate repertoire with reper-tired, Gál’s sonatas and Suite may reawaken interest in the genre, especially in sympathetic performances such as these, captured in lifelike recorded sound. Recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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