Gál was born in 1890 to a Jewish family in a small village just outside Vienna. He was trained at the New Vienna Conservatory where later he taught for some time.
With the support of such important musicians as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Richard Strauss and others, he obtained the directorship of the Mainz Conservatory.
Gál composed in nearly every genre and his operas, which include Der Artz der Sobeide, Die Heilige Ente andDas Lied der Nacht, were particularly popular during the 1920s.
Although not exactly a household name in the guitar world, he did compose many works which include the mandolin and guitar, some of which are for mandolin orchestra.
When the Nazis occupied Mainz in 1933, Gál was dismissed as director of the conservatory and his music was banned
He was forced to leave Germany and eventually emigrated to Britain, where he taught at the University of Edinburgh for many years.
However, at the start of World War II the British government interned all enemy aliens, including Gál.
He continued to compose whilst interned in Huyton Camp near Liverpool and Central Camp in Douglas, Isle of Man. He was not interned for long as the government soon began to release those who did not pose a threat to the allies.
He died in Edinburgh at the age of 97.
He has written several works which include the guitar, amongst them Op. 66 Biedermeier Dances for mandolin orchestra (or mandolin, violin, mandola, guitar, mandoloncello and bass mandolin = Op. 66b) and Op. 68c. Divertimento for 2 treble recorders and guitar.
He has made a substantial contribute to the repertoire of the mandolin orchestra, which also included guitars. Here is a partial list:
- Op. 3. Serbische Weisen (Serbian Dances) for piano duet/small orchestra/mandolin orchestra.
- Op. 10a. Four chamber pieces for mandolin, violin, viola and liuto (also for mandolin orchestra, op. 10b).
- Op. 46. Serenade for string orchestra (also for mandolin orchestra).
- Op. 56a. Partita for mandolin and piano.
- Op. 59a. Sonatina for 2 mandolins.
- Op. 59b. Suite for 3 mandolins.
- Op. 60. Improvisation, Variations and Finale on a Theme by Mozart for mandolin, violin, viola and liuto (also mandolin orchestra).
- Op. 66. Biedermeier Dances for mandolin orchestra (or mandolin, violin, mandola, guitar, mandoloncello and bass mandolin = Op. 66b).
- Op. 80. Divertimento for mandolin and harp or piano.
- Op. 81. Sinfonietta No. 1 for mandolin orchestra, guitar, bass.
- Op. 86. Sinfonietta No. 2 for mandolin orchestra.
- Op. –. Capriccio for mandolin orchestra.
- Op. –. Lyrical Suite to Browning’s ‘Pippa passes’, for soprano, flute and string quartet (flute, mandolin and string trio).
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.
I first met Kenneth when he conducted my concerto “Heart of the Rose” in Derby, with Steve Thachuk playing the solo guitar part. He was very helpful and a real gent despite the odd difficulty with the orchestral writing!
I also remember seeing Hladky (Wien) editions dog eared copies of Gál’s Sinfoniettas for Zupforchester in Foyle’s music department in the 70s and wondering if I would ever get an orchestra together to play them. Such dusty memories! This music is still available!
Gal / Schumann Symphonies project by Orchestra of the Swan