GÁL Cello Works
By my reckoning this is the 15th Avie recording to feature the music of Hans Gál and, despite its worth, there’s no doubting the label’s musicians and producers – Kenneth Woods and Simon Fox-Gál the most tireless among them – got to the meatier works first. Woods argues in his lucid booklet note that there’s ‘nothing frivolous’ about the Cello Concertino but this is undeniably a lighter piece than the multi-layered, whimsical and tragic Concerto of 21 years earlier. Gál’s 1965 Concertino, recorded for the first time here, is a work of consistent shape and at times of distinctive Viennese urgency; but its reflection of Gál’s characteristic oscillation between darkness and light is altogether simpler and its finale is really just a serenade. Matthew Sharp plays with attractive cleanliness in all three movements but the ESO strings can sound thin and untidy.
Anyone writing in this resolutely Romantic style in 1965 was clearly in a world of their own. But Gál’s Sonata for Solo Cello, written 17 years later, born of the same harmonic rulebook but stripped of luscious harmonies by virtue of its scoring, can feel altogether more edgy, muddy and determined. Sharp’s performance, up to the probing final Vivace, is similarly clean but emotionally driven. Could it have been captured in one take? The sound of his modern cello by Robin Aitchinson has something very fresh and unburdened about it.
Gál’s Suite for Solo Cello was dedicated to Simon Fox-Gál – cellist, producer (of this recording and most of its companions) and the composer’s grandson. These virtuoso dance movements are at once studied and inspired, seasoned with occasional contrapuntal complications but filled with flair at the same time. They are never dry under Sharp’s fingers; he communicates the physical gait of each idea, particularly in the second-movement shift from tight Alla marcia to singing Allegro moderato. The Rondino can get a little caught up in itself but Sharp argues the Suite’s case as the best piece on the disc.