Hans Gál: Music behind Barbed Wire – A Diary of Summer 1940
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Hans Gál: Music behind Barbed Wire

A Diary of Summer 1940

Hans Gál

Translated by Eva Fox-Gál and Anthony Fox
English edition edited by Martin Anderson
Foreword by Sir Alan Peacock

Music and Society (non-ISSN series)

ISBN: 978-0-907689-75-1

Extent: 243 pages

Size: 16 x 24 cm

Published: October 2014

Composition: Royal octavo ~ Editorial Introduction ~ Eva Fox-Gál: ‘Hans Gál: A Biographical Introduction’ ~ Richard Dove: ‘”Most Regrettable and Deplorable Things have Happened”: Britain’s Internment of Enemy Aliens in 1940’ ~ Hans Gál: Music behind Barbed Wire ~ Eva Fox-Gál: ‘Gál in Britain’ ~ Appendices – One: Personalia; Two: CD Programme; Three: Martin Anderson: Hans Gál in Conversation; Four: The Hans Gál Society; Five: The Contributors ~ Bibliography ~ Index of Gál’s Works ~ General Index

Illustrations: c. 50

The Austrian-born composer Hans Gál (1890–1987) was one of many Jewish refugees who fled to Britain from Hitler’s Third Reich only to find themselves interned in prison camps in Britain as ‘enemy aliens’ – the result of Churchill’s panic decision to ‘collar the lot’ in fear of a ‘fifth column’ of Nazi sympathisers. Gál thus spent five months over the summer of 1940 in internment camps – first in Donaldson’s Hospital in Edinburgh, then at Huyton, near Liverpool, and finally in the Central Promenade Camp on the Isle of Man.

The diary Gál kept during his captivity, a vivid and very human account of personal survival and creativity in extraordinary circumstances, is a monument to the human spirit. Many of his fellow internees went on, like Gál himself, to become shaping forces in the intellectual life of Britain – but in captivity this colourful array of distinguished personalities had to put up with bureaucratic inertia and the indifference of their captors to their undeserved fate. They emerge from the pages of the diary like characters in a tragi-comic human drama.

Gál’s contribution, of course, was music, and the CD with this book presents recordings of the Huyton Suite he wrote for two violins and flute (the only instruments available to him), songs from the satirical review What a Life! composed on the Isle of Man and the piano suite he drew from it.

A biographical introduction to Hans Gál by his daughter, Eva Fox-Gál, and a general historical introduction to British internment policy by Professor Richard Dove provide a framework for the diary; the Foreword is by the distinguished economist, the late Sir Alan Peacock, who studied composition with Gál. Together they throw light on one of the more shameful British responses to the threat of Nazi invasion.

Hans Gál, born near Vienna in 1890, soon established himself as one of the foremost composers of his time, particularly following the decisive success, in 1923, of Die heilige Ente, the second of his four operas, which was staged in many major European opera houses until it was banned by the Nazis. In 1929 he was appointed Director of the Music Academy in Mainz, but was summarily dismissed after Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933. Returning to Vienna, Gál and his family again had to flee with the Anschluss in March 1938, to London. There an encounter with Sir Donald Tovey brought him to Edinburgh where – apart from the five months of internment as an ‘enemy alien’ documented in this diary – he spent the rest of his life, a much-loved and active composer, teacher, author and musical personality. He died in October 1987, aged 97. At the time of his death his music had fallen from sight, but in recent years a revival in interest has seen frequent performances, broadcasts and recordings of much of his substantial output, including symphonies, concertos, chamber music and a range of solo works, revealing a master craftsman with a distinctive voice.

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