Hans Gál – Der Zauberspiegel Op. 38
(b. Brunn am Gebirge, Austria, 5. August 1890 – d. Edinburgh, 3. October 1987)
Elegie im Schnee p.63
Dedicated to Gál’s sons, Franz and Peter.
The late 1920s and early 1930s were happy years for Austrian composer and scholar, Hans Gál. Gál’s operas were being staged at major houses throughout the German-speaking world, and important conductors such as Furtwängler, Busch, and Weingartner were programming his orchestral works. Over fifty performances of Gál’s music (of all genres) were documented in 1930 alone. Gál was appointed, by unanimous vote, director of the conservatory in Mainz in 1929. He immersed himself fully in the conservatory’s activities. In addition to attending to the administrative duties of an organization that served 1,000 students and 70 teachers, he directed the orchestra and all of the choirs, led courses in conducting, counterpoint, harmony, and composition, and taught a few piano students. He also managed to find time to serve, along with Ernst Toch and Alban Berg, on the program committee of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein (General German Music Society) which produced annual festivals of contemporary music. Of course, this highly stimulating period came to an abrupt end in 1933 when the Nazis seized control. Gál, who was of Jewish descent, was dismissed from his post in March, and his works were banned from performance and publication.
Works from the Mainz years include the Ballet Suite for orchestra, op. 36, the Violin Concerto, op. 39, premièred by Georg Kulenkampff in Dresden in February 1933 with Fritz Busch conducting, and Die Beiden Klaas (Rich Claus, Poor Claus), Gál’s final opera. The planned double première in Dresden and Hamburg was cancelled after the Nazi takeover, and another fifty-seven years would pass before the opera was heard for the first time.1 Also from the Mainz period, Der Zauberspiegel (The Magic Mirror), op. 38 is a Weihnachtsmärchen, or Christmas fairy-tale, in five scenes, completed in 1930 and published the same year by Universal Edition. The work is scored for small orchestra consisting of flute, oboe, clarinet (doubling on saxophone), bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, timpani, percussion (one player), piano, and string quintet (or strings). The first performance took place in December 1930 in Breslau (now Wrocław) where Gál had enjoyed early success. The operas, Der Arzt der Sobeide (Sobeide’s Doctor) and Das Lied der Nacht (The Song of the Night) were premièred there, and the overwhelmingly positive reception of Gál’s second opera, Die heilige Ente (The Sacred Duck) gave rise to a Carneval parody, Die heilige Rente (The Sacred Pension) by “Ganz Egal” (“completely irrelevant!”). Gál indicated that he had had the idea to write a theatre piece for children for some time; however, it was not until librettist Karl Erich Jaroschek visited Gál in Mainz that the idea started to take shape. Gál, at the time an experienced father of two young boys who “left nothing to be desired in terms of liveliness and naughtiness,” believed that truthfulness was the key to communicating with children.2 Gál found Jaroschek’s nobly naïve text to have “what is rarely found in art: something completely uncontrived and honest in feeling and expression.”3 Gál further believed that such a work should be extraordinary – something colorful and exciting as well as good fun. The music should be lively and fresh and appeal to all “because music can and must never be intended for a specific audience, otherwise it will become a test tube product instead of a living creation.” …
Full preface / Komplettes Vorwort > HERE