23. Late works

After the 1950s the number of Gál's larger orchestral works diminished. In the 60s he wrote two Sinfoniettas for mandolin orchestra (Op.81, Op.86) for his Viennese friend Vinzenz Hladky, who directed a mandolin orchestra at the Vienna Academy (he had previously written for Hladky's mandolins the Improvisation, Variations and Finale on a Theme by Mozart, and the Capriccio for Mandolin Orchestra), and the Cello Concertino (Op.87). In the 70s there appeared an orchestral suite, Triptych (Op.100) and his fourth symphony: Sinfonia Concertante for flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello and orchestra (Op.105). But what is characteristic of his last 25 years is above all the concentration on chamber music for a variety of different instruments and combinations, among them the Concertino for Treble Recorder/Flute and String Quartet (Op.82), sonatas for clarinet (Op.84) and oboe (Op.85), the third and fourth String Quartets (Op.95 and Op.99), three Duos (Op.90 (1), Op.90(2), Op.90(3)Trios (Op.88 and Op.104), the String Quintet (Op.106) and the Clarinet Quintet (Op.107), the last two both from the year 1977, when the composer was already 87.

It remains to mention Gál's main piano work, the Twenty-Four Preludes (Op.83), which owe their origin to a fortnight's stay in hospital in 1960, during which time he wrote one prelude every day, "so as not to get out of practice", as he jokingly put it.

"What was begun under such unusual circumstances was continued in the following months, developed and revised. Several pieces were replaced by others, so that few of the 'hospital pieces' are contained in the final version. After completing the whole work, the composer expressed the view that, if Bach had in his day composed the Well-Tempered Clavier in order to demonstrate that one could compose in all keys (which was by no means taken for granted at that time), then it was time to demonstrate that one could still compose in all keys today." [Otto Schmidtgen: 'Hans Gál's neues Klavierwerk', Das Podium 1/2, 1961. Monatliche Mitteilungen der Mainzer Liedertafel und Damengesangsverein, Mainz]

Of the work itself Gál himself said: 

"The Preludes were a birthday present for myself. They are studies in piano sound, piano technique and concentrated miniature form. Each of these three elements is for me an area of inexhaustible possibilities, and as I wrote the pieces I had the feeling that I could have written 24 more without repeating myself, in view of the unbelievable variety of what can take place between the black and white keys. All the Preludes are as concise as possible in order to shape a thought with precision". [Quoted from Waldstein, op. cit., p. 38]

Also a birthday present - but this time for his ninetieth birthday - Gál wrote Twenty-Four Fugues for piano (Op.108) and even performed them several times in public, in Britain and in Germany. In 1982 he wrote two works for solo cello (Op.109a and Op.109b); in the following year there appeared Four Bagatelles and a Sonatina for Recorder (Op.110a and b), although he had for years maintained that his "workshop was closed". His predominantly turning to chamber music in old age no doubt reflects the more personal, more inwardly oriented situation of a composer who now lived far from public life and in increasing isolation, and it is doubtless significant that his very last works are all for solo instruments. But in addition there was his ever-increasing experience and mastery. He said with reference to his Duo for Bassoon and Cello (Op. 90, no. 1): "I was 40 before I learnt to write for 3 parts - and 60 before I learnt to write for 2" [quoted from Waldstein, op. cit., p. 38].