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Composer and musicologist Hans Gál (1890-1987) was one of that generation whose lives and careers were disrupted by Hitler’s accession to power in the 1930s.


After teaching at Vienna University Gál was appointed director of the Conservatory in Mainz, but with the banning of his works and mounting danger for Jews in Germany he returned to Vienna in 1933 and following the Anschluss emigrated to the UK in 1938. He was befriended by Donald Tovey and settled in Edinburgh, teaching at the University and playing a major role in the founding of the Edinburgh Festival. As well as enjoying a renewal of performances in postwar Austria and Germany, he was championed in his new homeland by conductor Rudolf Schwarz with the Bournemouth and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras.


Gál’s works blend post-Brahmsian technique with neo-classical clarity. His love of Bach can be heard in his skilful contrapuntal ingenuity, and he carefully balances lyrical and witty elements. Orchestral works within the Simrock catalogue, published by Boosey & Hawkes include Symphonies No.1 (1927) and No.4 (Sinfonia Concertante) (1974), the Triptych (1970), and a suite drawn from Hugo Wolf’s opera Der Corregidor. His complete piano works can be heard on an impressive new set of 3 CDs (Avie AV 2064), played by Leon McCawley, including the Sonata (1927), Suite (1922) and 24 Fugues (1980) written at the age of 90.


A Hans Gál Society has recently been founded: for further information visit www.hansgal.com.

Photo: Hans Gál in Mainz in 1931 (©Gál Archive)

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