Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Re-opening the Repertoire

Consider this a companion piece to my early post Rusted-shut Repertoire? In that post, I talk about an article Anne Midgette wrote, Little-known composers get their due in the studio if not the concert hall.

Her article led with an example of a neglected composer -- Hans Gal. Gal is a composer I had never heard of before (and that's saying something). So I decided to explore.

A good number of the people I know who listen to classical music seem somewhat incurious about it. They're quite happy to enjoy Tchaikovsky's First Piano concerto, and not think anything more about his ouvre.

Me? I notice that the title says "First Piano Concerto." So I immediately wonder how many more he wrote (two), and what do they sound like (good, not great). I do the same thing with opus numbers. That's Op. 23? How many works did the composer write? Wonder what Op. 1-22 sound like. And Op. 24 and beyond.

So when I see the name of a composer I don't know, I'm instantly curious about their music. So who was Hans Gal? Gal was a Post-Romantic composer who had a promising career in Germany until forced out by the Nazis. He fled to Great Britain, where he remained the rest of his life. Although he continued to compose, his career never fully recovered, and his works were not frequently performed after 1933.

And how did I find out more about his music? I went to YouTube. In time, I may purchase some Gal recordings, but before I do, I'd like to know if it's music I'd like. As a way to audition music, I've found YouTube to be a surprisingly good source for classical music.

Here's what I found:

Promenade Music (1926)

Clarinet Trio, Op. 97

As well as his  Capriccio for Mandolin Orchestra , ASerenade for String Orchestra, Op. 46, Suite for Alto Saxophone and Piano, and some other works, besides. I also found an interview with Kenneth Woods, the conductor whose become a champion of his music.

So I could very quickly get an idea of what the composer's output was like, and decide if I wanted to explore further and perhaps invest in some recordings. (I'd say yes.)

Opportunities to make discoveries like this are all around. You just have to be open to them.

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