In 1915 Gál was the first recipient of the new Austrian State Prize for Composition for his first symphony, though he later discarded this work and its successors, as well as a large number of works composed up to that time. During World War I he served in Serbia, the Carpathians and Italy. He returned from the war with a completed opera, Der Arzt der Sobeide, which was performed in Breslau (modern Wrocław) in 1919 under the conductor Julius Prüwer.
After World War I the political situation in Austria was extremely difficult, exacerbated by runaway inflation. Gál was appointed to the (initially unpaid) post of Lector for music theory at the University of Vienna (a post once held by Anton Bruckner). Despite the financial difficulties he married Hanna Schick (a relative of the philosopher and psychologist Wilhelm Jerusalem). His second opera Die heilige Ente (The Sacred Duck) received its première in Düsseldorf in April 1923 under George Szell and was performed with continued success in some twenty theatres. Together with his third opera, Das Lied der Nacht (The Song of the Night), it established his wider reputation. In 1928 he won a Columbia Schubert Centenary Prize for his Sinfonietta, later retitled his First Symphony. In the following year, with the support of such important musicians as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Fritz Busch and Richard Strauss, he was appointed to the directorship of the Mainz Conservatory. The next three years were among the happiest and most productive of his life.
World War II and later life
The rise of the Nazis in Germany brought Gál's career in Mainz to an abrupt end on account of his Jewish ancestry. When the Nazis took over Mainz in March 1933, he was instantly dismissed from his post and performance and publication of his works in Germany were prohibited. His fourth opera, Die beiden Klaas (Rich Claus, Poor Claus), which was to have received a double première in Dresden and Hamburg, was cancelled and was not performed until an English translation was presented by York Opera in 1990. He and his family returned to Vienna, but the shadow of the German Reich was already clearly evident in Austria, and he could find no permanent position.
Immediately after the Anschluss in 1938, Gál fled to London, with the intention of emigrating to the United States. However, he remained in Britain, where he met the musician and scholar Donald Tovey, who invited him to come to Edinburgh where Tovey taught at the University. There were no permanent openings for professors, but Tovey found him some work in late 1938, and when the war broke out in 1939 the Gáls moved to Edinburgh permanently. In 1940 he was interned as an enemy alien in Huyton Camp near Liverpool and Central Camp in Douglas, Isle of Man, from May to September.
After his release he returned to Edinburgh, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He had continued to compose throughout this time, publishing his Second Symphony in 1942. He became a lecturer in musical education at the University of Edinburgh in 1945, where he taught until retiring in 1960.
He died at Edinburgh in October 1987, at the age of 97.
Gál’s style is rooted in the Austro-German musical tradition, but from the early 1920s he had developed his own musical language, to which he remained true throughout his long career. He never followed prevailing fashions, nor abandoned his belief in the importance of tonality. Though his style cannot be derived from any single influence, one can nevertheless identify particular affinities, especially with the 18th century Viennese composers whose clarity, plasticity and playful humour are basic constituents. His works combine romantic intensity with emotional restraint, and the chromatic harmonies and extended tonality of the pre-serial early moderns with a Schubert-like love of melody, integrated with a polyphonic texture that derives from his lifelong engagement with the works of J. S. Bach. His output was considerable: over 150 published works in virtually all genres, including, in addition to his four operas, four symphonies, four string quartets, two large-scale cantatas with orchestra, other orchestral works, chamber music, sets of 24 preludes and 24 fugues for piano, and vocal works of various kinds.
Gál's music continued to appear regularly in concert in the years immediately following World War II thanks the advocacy of colleagues like Rudolf Schwarz and Otto Schmidtgen. As the years passed, and Gál's advocates ceased working, his music fell into near-complete neglect. This process was accelerated by a shift in the programming policy of the BBC in his adopted home country of the UK, where from the 1960s onward, the national broadcaster explicitly favoured music from the avant garde or twelve-tone schools.
21st Century Revival
The beginning of the 21st century has seen a revival of interest, with the issue of a number of Gál recordings. The Gál discography now includes the four symphonies (Kenneth Woods and the Orchestra of the Swan), the complete piano music (Leon McCawley), the complete String Trios (Ensemble Epomeo), concertos and concertinos for violin, cello and piano (soloists Annette-Barbara Vogel, Matthew Sharp and Sarah Beth Briggs with conductor Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra and Royal Northern Sinfonia), the Cello Concerto (Antonio Meneses) and the Complete String Quartets (Edinburgh Quartet) as well as a number of chamber works. Recent releases include the first of Gál's operas, Das Lied der Nacht.
In addition to his compositions, Gál was the author of a number of books:
Anleitung zum Partiturlesen. Vienna: Philharmonischer Verlag, 1923. English edition: Directions for Score Reading. London, 1924.
The Golden Age of Vienna. London: Parish, 1948.
Johannes Brahms. Werk und Persönlichkeit. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2nd edn. 1980. English edition: Brahms: his Work and Personality. New York: Knopf, 1963 / London: Severn House, 1975.
Richard Wagner. Versuch einer Würdigung. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1963. English edition: Richard Wagner. London: Gollancz / New York: Stein & Day, 1976.
The Musician's World. Great Musicians in their Letters. London: Thames & Hudson, 1965.
Franz Schubert oder die Melodie. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1970. English edition: Franz Schubert and the Essence of Melody. London: Gollancz, 1974.
Drei Meister – drei Welten. Brahms, Wagner, Verdi. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1975.
Brahms: Briefe. Ed. by Hans Gál. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1979.
Schumann Orchestral Music. London: BBC, 1979.
Giuseppe Verdi und die Oper. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1982.
Musik hinter Stacheldraht (Music behind Barbed Wire), edited by Eva Fox-Gál. Bern: Peter Lang, 2003. (Hans Gál's internment diary from summer 1940. In German – includes CD of the Huyton Suite and What a Life!. English translation in press.)
Op. 4 Der Arzt der Sobeide (Sobeide's Doctor) (1917–18)
Op. 86 Sinfonietta No. 2 (E minor) for mandolin orchestra. (1966)
Capriccio for mandolin orchestra (1973)
Lyrical Suite for soprano solo, flute and string quartet (flute, mandolin and string trio) to Browning's Pippa Passes (1934)
Since the early 2000s, Gál's music has started to be recorded on a significant scale. Recordings made during this period include a set of the four symphonies on the Avie label, under conductors Kenneth Woods and Thomas Zehetmair, as well as recordings of concertos and chamber music.
24 Preludes for Piano op. 83, Aladár Rácz, Pan Classics PC510141, 2001
Chamber Music for Clarinet (Clarinet Quintet op. 107, Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, op. 97, Serenade for Clarinet, Violin and Cello, Op. 93), Shelley Levy, Ensemble Burletta, Toccata TOCC0377, 2016
Chamber Music, Volume Three (Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 13, Three Sonatinas for violin and piano, Op. 71, Sonatina in F major) Cressida Nash, Katalin Kertész, Nichola Blakey, Sarah Beth Briggs, Toccata TOCC0433, 2018
Complete Piano Duos Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow (Three marionettes Op. 74, Serbische Weisen Op. 3, Concertino Op. 43, Three Impromptus, A Pastoral Tune) Divine Art DDA25098, 2012
Complete String Quartets (Quartet No.1 in F minor Op. 16, Quartet No. 4 Op. 99, Quartet no. 2 op 35, Quartet no. 3 op. 95, 5 Intermezzi op. 10, Improvisation, Variations and Finale on a theme by Mozart Op. 60b) Edinburgh Quartet, Meridian Records CDE 84530/1, 2005/2007
Complete Works for Solo Piano; Leon McCawley (Three Sketches op. 7, Suite op. 24, Sonata op. 28, Two Sonatinas op. 58, Three Small Pieces op. 64, Three Preludes op.65, Twenty-four Preludes op. 83, Twenty-four Fugues op. 108) Avie AV2064, 2005
Hans Gál & Edward Elgar: Cello Concertos (Gál: Cello Concerto, op.67; Elgar: Cello Concerto) Antonio Meneses, cello; Northern Sinfonia/Claudio Cruz; Avie AV2237, 2012
Hans Gál & Franz Schubert: Kindred Spirits (Gál: Symphony No.1, op.30; Schubert: Symphony No.6 in C) Northern Sinfonia / Thomas Zehetmair; Avie AV2224, 2011
Hans Gál & Franz Schubert: Kindred Spirits (Gál: Symphony No.2, op.53; Schubert: Symphony No. 9 (The Great)) Northern Sinfonia / Thomas Zehetmair; Avie AV2225, 2011
Hans Gál & Hans Krása: Complete String Trios Ensemble Epomeo (Gál: Serenade Op.41 for violin, viola and cello; Gál:Trio in F sharp minor Op.104 for violin, viola and cello; Krása: Tanec (Dance) for violin, viola and cello; Krása: Passacaglia and Fuga for violin, viola and cello), Avie AV2259, 2012
Hans Gál & Robert Schumann (Gál: Symphony No.1, op.30; Schumann: Symphony No.3) Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods; Avie AV2233, 2014
Hans Gál & Robert Schumann (Gál: Symphony No.2, op.53; Schumann: Symphony No.3 Rhenish) Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods; Avie AV2232, 2013
Hans Gál & Robert Schumann (Gál: Symphony No.3, op.62; Schumann: Symphony No.3 Rhenish) Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods; Avie AV2230, 2011
Hans Gál & Robert Schumann (Gál: Symphony No.4, op.105 (Sinfonia concertante); Schumann: Symphony No.2, op.61) Orchestra of the Swan/Kenneth Woods; Avie AV2231, 2012
Hans Gál & Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Gál Concerto for Piano and Orchestra Op.57; Mozart Piano Concerto no.22 in E flat K482) Sarah Beth Briggs (piano) Royal Northern Sinfonia/Kenneth Woods; Avie AV2358, 2016
Hans Gal, Josef Kaminski and Leonard Bernstein: Works for Violin and Orchestra. (includes Gal's Concertino for violin and string orchestra, op.52). Erez Ofer (violin) Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/ Frank Beerman. Hanssler Classics HC19020, 2019.
Modern Times (Songs by Franz Schreker, Hans Gál, Berthold Goldschmidt, Hanns Eisler, Erich Korngold, Alexander von Zemlinsky and Wilhelm Grosz) includes Gál Five Songs (op. 33); Christian Immler (baritone), Helmut Deutsch (piano); C-Avi-Music 8553229, 2011
Music for Cello (Sonata for Solo Cello op. 109a; Suite for Solo Cello op. 109b; Sonata for Cello and Piano op. 89) Alfia Nakipbekova (cello), Jakob Fichert (piano); Toccata Classics TOCC0043, 2012
Music for Viola (Suite Concertante for Viola and Orchestra, Op. 102a, Divertimento for Violin and Viola, Op. 90, No. 3, Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 101, Trio for Oboe, Violin and Viola, Op. 94,Hanna Pakkala, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Toccata TOCC0535, 2019
Orgelwerke/Organ Works (Concertino for organ op. 55, Toccata op. 29, 2 Sacred Songs op. 21, Prelude & Fugue, Phantasia Arioso & Capriccioso) István Mátyás (organ), Adrineh Simonian (soprano), David Pennetzdorfer (cello), Orchester Wiener Akadenie/Martin Haselböck; Membran NCA 60162, 2007
Piano Trios (Piano Trio in E Major, op. 18; Variations on a Heurigen Melody, Op.9; Piano Trio in G Major, op. 49b) Doris Adam (piano), Karin Adam (violin), Christoph Stradner (cello); Camerata (Japan) CMCD-28149, 2008
The Right Tempo (Three Intermezzos for Flute and Piano, op. 103; Sonata for Two Violins and Piano, op. 96, Three Sketches for Piano, op. 7, Huyton Suite for Flute and Two Violins, op. 92) Ulrike Anton (flute), Russell Ryan (piano), Cornelia Löscher (violin), Wolfhart Schuster (violin); Gramola (Vienna) 98896, 2010
Through the Centuries (includes Gál’s Divertimento for Violin and Viola op.90 no.3) Annette-Barbara Vogel (violin), Daniel Sweaney (viola) Blue Green Recording BGR269, 2013
Violin Concerto, Violin Concertino, Triptych for Orchestra (Gál: Concerto for violin & small orchestra, op.39; Gál: Triptych: Three movements for orchestra, op. 100; Gál: Concertino for violin and string orchestra, op. 52) Annette-Barbara Vogel (violin), Northern Sinfonia/Kenneth Woods; Avie AV2146, 2010
Violin Concerto & Violin Sonatas (Concerto for violin and small orchestra, op. 39, Sonata for Violin and Piano, op.17, Sonata for Violin and Piano in D (1933)) Thomas Albertus Irnberger (violin), Evgeni Sinaiski (piano); Israel Chamber Orchestra/Roberto Paternostro; Gramola (Vienna) 98921, 2011
Works for Violin and Piano (Sonata in B flat minor, Op.17 (1920); Suite in G major Op.56 (1942); Sonata in D, op. posth. (1933)) Annette-Barbara Vogel (violin), Juhani Lagerspetz (piano); Avie AV2182, 2010
^Waldstein, Wilhelm, Hans Gál. Eine Studie. Wien: Elisabeth Lafite (Österreichischer Bundesverlag), 1965
Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians. London: Macmillan 1980. ISBN0-333-23111-2.
Schmidtgen, O.: 'Hans Gál'. In Österreichische Musikzeitschrift p. 1–2, 1957.
Fox-Gál, E. & Fox, A.: 'Hans Gál'. In Music & Musicians, August, 1985, p. 12–13
Musikalische Dokumentation: Hans Gál. Musiksammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Institut für Österreichische Musikdokumentation, 1987.
Schönzeler H.-H.: 'Hans Gál. The man and his music'. In Music and Musicians International, January 1988, p. 22–23.
Moncrieff, Margaret: 'Hans Gal (1890–1987). A personal tribute and memoir'. In The British Music Society News, 97, March 2003, pp. 369–74.
Haas, Michael and Patka, Marcus G.: Musik des Aufbruchs: Hans Gál und Egon Wellesz. Continental Britons. Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2004. Exhibition at the Jewish Museum, Vienna, 25th Feb-2 May 2004. ISBN3-85476-116-3.
Waldstein, W.: Hans Gál. Eine Studie. Wien: Elisabeth Lafite (Österreichischer Bundesverlag), 1965.
Kumpl. Erika Martha: Die Mandolinenwerke von Hans Gál (The mandolin works of Hans Gál). Master's dissertation, University of Vienna, 2007.
Marcus, Richard C. A Comparative Analysis of the First and Second Symphonies of Émigré Composer Hans Gál (1890–1987). Doctoral Dissertation, University of South Carolina, 2012.
Eva Fox-Gál und Anthony Fox: Hans Gál. Ein Jahrhundert Musik. Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2012.