Das Lied der Nacht
Lina Liu, Ralph Ertel, Susann Vent-wunderlich, Gritt Gnauck; Osnabrück Theatre Chorus & Symphony Orchestra/andreas Hotz CPO 555 186-2 137:07 mins (2 discs)
The four operas of ★ans Gál (18901987) all belong to the first part of his career, which, following studies with Brahms’s friend Eusebius Mandyczewski in his native Vienna, saw him flourish until the rise of the Nazis. Gál escaped to Britain, enduring hardships including internment as an ‘enemy alien’ during World War II but eventually settling into academic life at the University of Edinburgh and becoming one of the founders of that city’s famous festival. Like his fellow refugee composers Egon Wellesz and Berthold Goldschmidt, Gál would never achieve operatic fame in this country, and his operas await full re-evaluation.
This world premiere recording, based on a staging in Osnabrück last year, is an important act of restitution. Gál’s score, recalling in places Mahler and the Strauss of Ariadne auf Naxos yet possessed of its own voice, may not have sounded especially modern when it was first heard in Breslau (Wroc aw) in 1926, but it does show the composer’s strong dramatic instincts (he wrote books on Verdi and Wagner, among others). There is plenty of symbolist potential in this ‘dramatic ballad’, as the composer called it; the ‘night’ in the work’s title is that moment when the man-hating Princess succumbs, only temporarily it transpires, to the seductive song of the Nameless Singer. This nocturnal sensuality is well conveyed by the leading soprano and tenor, Lina Liu and Ralph Ertel, and if anything the rest of the ensemble is even stronger, sounding involved and impressive under Andreas ★otz’s sympathetic baton. John Allison