If there were an Olympic discipline for transparency of orchestration (not so fanciful a notion, since music formed part of the modern Olympiads from 1912 to 1948), then Gal's Fourth Symphony (1974) would win the gold medal with ease. Styled Sinfonia concertante, perhaps with Haydn in mind, it is resourced for pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns with timpani, strings and flute, clarinet, violin and cello solos who operate at times independently, at others in duets or as a concertino group.
In addition to the remarkable limpidity of Gal's scoring, the overall atmosphere is lyrically pastoral. But appearances are deceptive, as Woods notes in his intelligent booklet-notes, noting the music's 'intense rigour and deep concentration' where what 'seems the simplest and most straightforward ... proves to be the most sophisticated and complex'. There are lighter moments aplenty, particularly in the second and fourth movements (framing the beautiful Duetto: Adagio), respectively a gentle evocation of Harlequin and Columbine and a 'Buffoneria', the title of which does no justice to its subtle design.
The Orchestra of the Swan provide a quietly compelling account, relishing the many solos, duos and textural intricacies that Gal wrings from his orchestra. Their account of Schumann's C major brings playing of necessarily greater fire. While Zinman's just still remains first choice, Wood's finely wrought interpretation confirms his credentials - if confirmation were needed - as a symphonic conductor of stature. Avie's natural sound is clear but listeners may need to set the volume a touch higher than normal. Strongly recommended.