What a life  


What a life

What a Life!

On 26 September 2012, the two-year research project Singing a Song in a Foreign Land launched with a performance at the Royal College of Music of music written by émigré composer Hans Gál.

Director of the Mainz Conservatory, Gál was one of the most influential figures in German life. However his life came crashing down in 1933 when the Nazis came to power: stripped of his post, his music was banned and he and his family were forced to flee the city.

This unique event, curated by RCM professor Norbert Meyn, gave audiences the chance to hear three of Hans Gál’s works, including two extraordinary works written in response to his desperate situation:

First on the bill was Nachtmusik for soprano, male choir, flute, cello & piano. This highly individual work was written in 1933 when Gál was living in exile in the Black Forest, and contains the significant line: “Come, O nightingale, consolation of the night”.

After the interval, audiences enjoyed a semi-staged performance of the comic revue What a Life! This was written seven years later, when Hans Gál had fled to Britain but had been interned on the Isle of Man as an “enemy alien”. Gál’s delight in this work was such that he stayed in the hated camp for a day after his release had been granted, so he could give a second performance.

Subsequent performances

On 29 September 2012 RCM performers travelled to Schwerin in Germany to give a second performance of What a Life! at the Golden Hall at the Neustädtisches Palais as part of the festival Verfemte Musik 2012.

On 9 November 2013, the RCM was invited to present the work at the Council of Europe, seat of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The performance formed part of a colloquium seeking to preserve the memory of the holocaust and to prevent future crimes against humanity.

In pictures