City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Hans Gal: For the Love of the Cello, Canongate Kirk, Review

By Iain Gilmour - Posted on 13 May 2013


Returning to London after reviewing events at the Edinburgh International Festival more than 30 years ago, I sat with an eminent music critic discussing the Festival programme. He spent a good deal of time lamenting that the festival never included works by one of its founders and lambasting the Scottish musical establishment for ignoring woks by “the finest composer ever based in Scotland”.

Though Hans Gal took part in one of the early festivals, it was as accompanist to the great Kathleen Ferrier and the neglect of his work continues. There is now a goodly number of his compositions available on CD but, with the honourable exception of the Edinburgh Quartet, none of them are of Scottish origin.

His four symphonies were recently recorded for the first time – one was reviewed by the Sunday Times – and lost nothing by being paired with Schubert and Schumann.

There was a similar apposition, with Poulenc and Rachmaninov, in this concert organised by the Hans Gal Society, which drew a sizeable, appreciative audience to the Canongate Kirk on a Sunday afternoon.

The two cello and piano works were both melodic and compelling. Like all the Gal corpus they were firmly in the true Viennese tradition without sounding old-fashioned. There were differences of mode between the suite and the sonata. The sonata shows maturity and development without sacrifice of freshness and surprising vitality for a work by 92-year old composer.

The performing duo obviously enjoyed Gal’s music – so much so that they repeated the last movement of the sonata as an encore. There was no doubting their musical proficiency nor their appreciation of the pieces performed.

This reviewer was almost spellbound by the intricate fingering of the cellist. Repeated listening later of the sonata on their new CD further confirmed the duo’s quality. The concert programme had already raised the awkward question, why should Poulenc be so widely acclaimed and Gal so disregarded?

One performance only Sunday, April 21, 2013