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Gál: Hidden Treasure (Unpublished Lieder)

Christian Immler (bass-baritone), Helmut Deutsch (piano) (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Hidden Treasure – Unpublished Lieder
Christian Immler (bass-baritone), Helmut Deutsch (piano)
BIS BIS-2543 (CD/SACD)   72:25 mins

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The Austrian Jewish composer Hans Gál was director of the Mainz Conservatory when the Nazis came to power in 1933. His job was terminated and his music banned, setting him on a path into exile – first back to Vienna, then to the UK, where he was interned on the Isle of Man. Ultimately he became professor of music at Edinburgh University. Like many composers of this devastated generation, Gál was condemned repeatedly: first for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time and later for staying true to his musical style when it was criticised as being outdated.

No longer. This is a treasure-trove of songs in the tradition of Richard Strauss, melodically radiant and full of sensitivity to atmosphere. Only five, Op. 33, were published in Gál’s lifetime. Among the poets are Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Heine and Rabindranath Tagore, to name but three. They provide the composer with a heady, Romantic world, sometimes veering towards mysticism (Tagore) or excessive gloom (Heine and Mörike), but mostly inspiring a golden bath of Jugendstil riches. If as a sequence they lack the inherent contrasts of, for instance, Wolf, that doesn’t detract from their beauty and finesse.

The baritone Christian Immler is ideally suited to them, with expansive, radiant tone and splendid diction; Helmut Deutsch sets his peerless pianism at the disposal of composer and singer, and he makes the most of the grotesque and prescient march in ‘Eine gantz neue Schelmweys’ (A Whole New Rogues’ Tune), a 1914 setting of Richard Dehmel. Recorded sound is superb, clear and warm.

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Jessica Duchen