The Strad Issue: April 2018
Description: Persuasive performance of a world premiere makes this worthwhile
Musicians: Matthew Sharp (cello), English Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Woods
Works: GÁL Concertino for cello and strings; Sonata for solo cello; Suite for solo cello
Catalogue Number: AVIE AV2380
As a Jewish émigré escaping Nazi perils, Hans Gál has received much attention over the last decade, with the renewed interest in suppressed music. As a well-schooled composer, Gál is never less than fluent. Undoubtedly, though, the highlight of this warmly recorded CD is the world premiere of the Concertino (1965), which boasts pleasant Schumannesque melodies. At 24 minutes, the work is hardly modest in scale and offers a broad range of emotions, from the melancholic Adagio to the energetic and lighter finale. Both Matthew Sharp and Kenneth Woods are truly committed and offer a most persuasive reading.
Yet Sharp’s undoubted flair cannot rescue the solo works on this disc, written when the composer was in his nineties. It’s notoriously difficult to write for solo cello, and while there is some striking 20th-century repertoire from the likes of Ligeti, Kodály and Britten, for example, equally some duller fare comes with Sessions’s Six Pieces and Bloch’s Suites, which are often meandering and lack inspired material. The same is unfortunately the case here, where the underlying harmonic invention is routine, and the melodic ideas fail to make an impact.
The recorded dynamic range is also limited, although Sharp gives remarkably impassioned accounts of these works.