- Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 30
Pairings of compositions can be instructive, especially if two works are programmed to draw interesting historical parallels, highlight formal similarities, or point out stylistic affinities that otherwise might escape notice. Thomas Zehetmair's 2011 album of Franz Schubert's "Symphony No. 6 in C major" and Hans Gál's "Symphony No. 1 in D major" illustrates the powerful hold the idea of the Classical symphony had on Viennese composers: the form that originated in the century before Schubert's work (1817-1818) still could inspire music in the time of Gál's symphony (1927). Beyond that point (and the more ephemeral notion that these two composers were "kindred spirits," despite being separated by time and stylistic periods), this disc finds a major difference: Schubert was still a part of the Classical tradition, though he was at the point of venturing into the Romanticism that gave him a distinctive voice, whereas Gál was the backward looking neo-Classicist, who regarded the Viennese symphony through the lenses of post-Romanticism and modernism. However, just as there is plenty of Mozart's spirit to be found in Schubert's "Sixth," there is more than a little of Mahler in Gál's "First," so if the Viennese connection seems a little tangential, underlying influences reveal a real continuity of traditions and the true sense of place. Zehetmair leads the Northern Sinfonia in these performances (a world premiere for Gál's symphony), and the clarity and vividness of the playing show attention to detail and skill in execution. Naturally, different approaches are called for, so Schubert's music receives a bright, transparent sound, while darker and somewhat harsher timbres are employed in the Gál. Of the two symphonies, Schubert's has instant appeal, but Gál's is of sufficient interest and accessibility to reward several hearings.