Hans Gál
Music Behind Barbed Wire: A Diary of Summer 1940

With a Forward by Sir Alan Peacock
Translated by Eva Fox-Gál and Anthony Fox
English edition by Martin Anderson - 190 pages (illustrée)
Toccata Press
October 2014
ISBN : 978-0-90768-975-1



The Austrian 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'. 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. Many of Gál's fellow internees went on, like Gál himself, to become shaping forces in the intellectual life of Britain - but in captivity this colourful parade of characters had to put up with bureaucratic inertia and the indifference of their captors to their undeserved fate. The diary Gál kept during his captivity vividly describes the difficulties the internees had to overcome to live as normal a life as possible. Gál's contribution, of course, was music, and the CD with this book presents first recordings of the Huyton Suite he wrote for two violins and flute (the only instruments available to him), the satirical review What a Life! composed on the Isle of Man and the piano suite he drew from it. Introductory chapters by Gál's daughter and by Richard Dove present a biographical survey of Gál's life and career and an examination of British internment policy; the Foreword is by the distinguished economist 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.


Table of contents : Music behind Barbed Wire is Hans Gál’s diary of the five months he spent in summer 1940 as a prisoner of His Majesty’s Government after Churchill decided (not his finest hour!) to solve the problem of ‘enemy aliens’ – many of them Jews who had fled to Britain from Hitlerism – with the order ‘Collar the lot!’ Gál chronicles the stultifying bureaucracy of his captors and the measures the prisoners took to keep themselves occupied – in his case, of course, composition: of the Huyton Suite for two violins and flute, because they were the only instruments in Huyton Camp, near Liverpool, and the revue Wat a Life!, performed on the Isle of Man – both words documented on the CD accompanying the book.

Contents of the CD
TT 69:51

Huyton Suite for flute and two violins, Op.92 (1940) 18:26

  1. Alla Marcia 2:29
  2. Capriccio 5:32
  3. Canzonetta con variazioni 6:11
  4. Fanfaronata 4:14

What a life! : Music from the Camp Revue (1940) 19:53
Reconstructed from the manuscript by Michael Freyhan

  1. Einzugsmarsch (Entrance March) 3:15
  2. Barbed Wire Song 2:07
  3. Frauen Song (Women's Song) 1:14
  4. Die Ballade vom deutschen Refugee (The Ballad of the German Refugee) 2:12
  5. Entr'Acte 1:16
  6. Keep Fit 1:23
  7. Quodlibet 1:19
  8. Besen Song (Broom Song) 0:53
  9. Der Song vom Doppelbett (The Song of the Double Bed) 1:26
  10. Serenade 2:15
  11. Finale 2:33
Norbert Meyn, tenor
Thomas Guthrie, baritone
Katalin Kertész and Charlotte Edwards, violins
Andrew Byrt, viola
Peter Fryhan, cello
Raffaello Orlandon, clarinet
Edward Beckett, flute
Michael Freyhan, piano (1920s Blüthner)

Die Ballade vom armen Jakob (The Ballad of poor Jakob) 17:41
Thomas Guthrie, speaker
Michael Freyhan, piano (Hans Gál's 1911 Blüthner)

What a life! : Piano Suite from the Camp Revue (1940) : 13:05

  1. Prelude ('Poor Jacob') - Allegro impetuoso e pesante 2:38
  2. Intermezzo (Jacob' end') - Moderato, misurata 2:16
  3. Ballade ('The barbed-Wire Harp') - Andante sostenuto 3:49
  4. Jolly March ('The Pageant') - Allegro gocoso 4:22
Michael Freyhan, piano (1920s Blüthner)