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Leon McCawley – CD reviews







Hans Gál – The Complete Works for Solo Piano
Avie Records AV2064

All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com) April 3rd 2006

Pianist McCawley truly understands this music and delivers it with the elegance, grace and sensitivity towards touch and dynamics it needs.

It is most enthusiastically recommended.
David N. Lewis

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Fanfare Magazine March/April 2006

Leon McCawley's playing is top-drawer stuff. He's a model of textural clarity- just what this music requires- but there's planty of sap in his veins, too, as he finds that elusive middle way between cautious respect and evangelising over-insistence. The producer, Simon Fox, the composer's grandson, has given him recorded sound of crystalline clarity, and I've already commended Lloyd Moore's note. A wonderful set-go for it!
Martin Anderson

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Pianist Magazine February/ March 2006

Leon McCawley's performances achieve two seemingly contradictory ends: though he flies at the music with lusty enthusiasm, he sacrifices not an ounce of the clarity and nimble wit it demands. The recordings, produced by the composer's grandson, Simon Fox-Gál, similarly combine warmth, depth and transparency. This is music that deserves to be heard.

Recommended
Martin Anderson

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Daily Telegraph December 3 2005

This is a real labour of love, and one that deserves to pay off in terms of attracting new listeners to a lot of fascinating music that has long languished in the pending tray.

Hans Gál...was for several decades a leading light in British musical life.... The solo piano was a medium that particularly interested him, and Leon McCawley's three discs of the complete works show how thoroughly Gál explored the instrument's expressive potential and its capacity for varied textures and colours.

But the exhilirating thing about the music is its inventive scope, which McCawley's characteristically perceptive playing conveys with the finesse that gives this set added value and lustre.
Geoffrey Norris

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Daily Mail December 2 2005

One of Hitler's best unintended gifts to Britain was Hans Gál who fled here in the late Thirties. The solo piano music, magnificently played here by Leon McCawley and beautifully recorded by Gál's grandson, Simon Fox-Gál, ranges in time of writing from 1910 to 1980.

This set is certainly one of the best things I have heard all year. *****
Tully Potter

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International Record Review December 2005

Leon McCawley, with his technical security, his fine tonal shadings and his exceptional rhythmic control, certainly makes the most of Gál's attractions. Good sound and informative notes add to the release's pleasures. All in all, a composer well worth your acquaintance.
Peter J. Rabinowitz

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BBC Music Magazine December 2005

Throughout this finely recorded three-disc set, Leon McCawley proves to be a totally sympathetic and insightful interpreter. A remarkable achievement.

Performance *****
Sound *****
Erik Levi

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www.musicweb-international.com November 2005

The set [disc 2: 24 Preludes] is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of pianism and McCawley’s performances do the music proud, his virtuosity even more compelling (sample No 22 in F# minor) than with the more varied fare on disc 1.

McCawley again [disc 3: 24 Fugues]has a firm understanding of the ebbs and flows and construction of each individual piece and the cycle as a whole—confirmed in his way with the valedictory Twenty-Fourth, in B minor. He seems the ideal interpreter of this music which deserves much wider currency than it has enjoyed until now. Avie’s recordings are beautifully clear, full without being over-rich, with good depth to the acoustical image. An exemplar for all recordings of unfamiliar repertoire, I cannot recommend this set too highly.
Guy Rickards

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International Piano November/December 2005

It's always welcome to have the opportunity to discover something new, especially when the rewards are as great as they are here. At a stroke we have the complete solo piano music of Hans Gál, including premiere recordings..

An important and intriguing release..that brings together Hans Gál's fastidious craft and Leon mcCawley's discerning and faithful interpretations, beautifully recorded. This is top-drawer music fully worthy of investigation, study and enjoyment.
Colin Anderson

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Gramophone November 2005

EDITOR'S CHOICE

To say that Hans Gál was unique is not to suggest that his work is quirky or inaccessible. Hardly a single track on this admirable and musically worthwhile collection lacks interest, colour or instant appeal. And yet Gál was no mindless lightweight: a strain of deeper meaning invariably lingers somewhere beneath his compact and attractive surfaces...

The first thing to say about this set is that Leon McCawley’s playing could hardly be bettered: virtually every bar betrays a level of perception that would surely have warmed the composer’s heart. Take the very first track on the first CD, the opening movement of Gál’s Op 28 Piano Sonata of 1927, the numerous decorative harmonic digressions even within the first 30 seconds, the way McCawley ever so slightly stresses them but without disrupting the flow. Then try the Quasi menuetto second movement, a playful charmer stylistically placed somewhere between Prokofiev and Finzi. The early Suite, Op 22, is a genial sequence that reminded me a little of Korngold (the Menuet) whereas the two post-war Sonatinas display more of a neo-classical leaning. All this, plus the three early Sketches, three Pieces and three Preludes (the middle piece achingly beautiful), fill just the first disc. But the best is yet to come: two CDs of Preludes and Fugues, the 24 preludes written mostly in hospital in 1960, one a day while recovering from illness; the fugues, serene and clear-headed, the work of an unusually lucid 90-year-old. Both sets progress from their initial key (B for the Preludes, C for the Fugues) and ascend chromatically, with the last piece cast a semitone lower than the first. The Preludes are more akin to, say, Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives than to Shostakovich’s Preludes: cameo tone-pictures, succulently harmonised, witty (1) or cautiously thoughtful (2), grand (10) or blithely pastoral (13), brilliant (16), spiky (22), whimsical (24) and so on. The fugues, on the other hand, are rather more ascetic, pared to essentials but often intensely expressive: perhaps my own favourite is No 12 in A flat minor. So, a surprise journey that should encourage many a return visit, especially in performances as consistently sympathetic as these. Excellent sound.
Rob Cowan

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Sunday Times 30th October 2005

Here, Leon McCawley, whose playing is beautifully clean-toned, makes a powerful case for[the]solo piano music.
Stephen Pettitt

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Independent on Saturday October 29th 2005

This fascinating set gathers all of his piano music, wonderfully played by Leon McCawley, in which Gál comes over as a highly refined composer with a sprightly imagination. *****
Andrew Clarke

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Music Week October 17th 2005

Certain classical projects defy compressed description in a few sentences, such is their back-story. Leon McCawley's three-disc set of Hans Gál's complete piano music stands prominent among them, not least thanks to the perspective it offers on an unduly neglected composer's musical development from student days in early 20th-century Vienna, through his direct experiences of Nazi anti-semitism to the 24 fugues he wrote as a 90th birthday present to himself in 1980. Produced by the composer's grandson and admirably presented by Avie, this release appeals clearly to collectors drawn to high quality rarities.
Andrew Stewart

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Classical Source (www.classicalsource.com) October 17th 2005

Leon McCawley’s playing is beyond criticism, avoiding an excess of ‘interpretation’ and focussing on revealing the structure of the music with absolute clarity and concentration. One is tempted to say he’s an ideal advocate, but really this music needs no advocacy: it speaks for itself, and needs merely to be revealed with sympathy. Which is exactly what we get here.
William Yeoman

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MusicWeb International October 2005

Leon McCawley has seemingly immersed himself with absolute fidelity to Gál's music, proving as effective in the more Gallic moments as he proves to be in the more cosmopolitan reaches of the Preludes. He brings out Gál's humour - and it's of the un-effortful, genuine kind - with precision and tact and he measures the Fugues with acumen.

This is a most enjoyable and rewarding set, and strongly recommended.
Jonathan Woolf

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