7. Marriage and family



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In 1922, at the height of the inflation and its attendant financial difficulties, Gál married Hanna Schick, from a distinguished and cultivated Viennese family, one of whose members was the philosopher and psychologist Wilhelm Jerusalem (1854-1923). They met through the pianist Louise Wandel, who happened to know Hanna's mother, and, since she had been ill, was invited to stay with the Schicks, where Hans, an old friend, visited her. Hanna had already heard some of his music in concerts in Vienna but did not know him personally. She explained that "when this pianist asked me what sort of chamber music I would like to hear I said, among other things, the Piano Quartet by Hans Gál. On that occasion he played cello. Six weeks later we were engaged."

Hanna's mother liked Gál and even painted his portrait, but she must have been rather suspicious of this composer, twelve years his daughter's senior, as a husband, since she went to the trouble of submitting samples of their handwriting to a famous graphologist before they were engaged. The graphologist advised against the union, on the grounds that Hans was clearly too egotistical. As Hanna confessed, on the occasion of what would have been Hans's ninety-ninth birthday, and after sixty-five years of marriage, this was, in a sense, an accurate assessment, but

"what he naturally couldn't see was that this egotism was not a crude material one, but served only his creative work, for which, often quite ruthlessly, he had to fight for time and freedom. But my mother was very worried, and was fully expecting that our marriage would not last long." [Private correspondence.]

She also related how, a few weeks before their marriage, Hans had taken her, unannounced, to see the Mandyczewskis:

"Frau M. opened the door and Hans said to her: 'Frau Professor, I've brought you a young lady who would like you to teach her how to cook.' Frau M. was perplexed for a moment, then said enthusiastically 'I see through everything!', and I was warmly welcomed." [Private correspondence, 5.10.1989.]

Hanna later recalled her happy and privileged childhood in Prague:

"Until 1918 large parts of Bohemia were in the possession of a few high aristocrats. These great lords had their magnificent town palaces in Prague and Vienna, and their hunting castles in appropriate areas. They rented out their country estates to landlords on long leases. Over the years my grandfather looked after three such estates. The first was Welen, where all his daughters were born. Then Letnan and Gbell were added. Gbell, owned by Count Czernin, was the largest and finest of the three estates, and was the nearest to Prague, so that every day my mother and her sisters could be brought to one of the suburbs of Prague, from where they could catch a tram to school.

The main house stood at the far end of the stable block. The very large courtyard had a row of houses along the right-hand side: the estate-manager's house, the permanent summer houses of the two oldest married daughters, and also accommodation for the seasonal workers. On the left-hand side stood outbuildings for the vehicles and the agricultural tools, hens, geese, and horses. The full width of the courtyard, opposite the main house, was taken up with the cow-sheds, with room for more than a hundred dairy cows. On the front of these stalls was the door to the enormous garden. The back wall of the cow-sheds was planted with fruit on a trellis. In front of this, by the side of the long gravel path to the tennis court, were strawberry beds. On the other side of the path there were blackcurrant, gooseberry and raspberry bushes. To the right of the garden entrance you first came to some vegetable plots, a pump with a water-butt, and then a slightly higher field with a few isolated fruit trees. This was the playground for my cousin Elly and me. Every day the two children's nannies filled two children's baths from the pump, and put one in the blazing sun, the other in half-shade. We never got tired of first getting into one and then into the other. If we wanted to eat something, there were carrots and kohlrabi in the vegetable plot and all kinds of ripe and unripe fruit. The two nannies sat under a tree, chatting and sewing, crocheting or embroidering for their costumes. Later, when my younger brother Karl and his cousin Heini, who were both the same age, could walk, it was not quite as easy for the nannies. The boys would run off, fall down on the gravel path and cut their knees; they got stomach ache from all the fruit and of course there was constant scrapping, shouting and fighting.

In 1908 - I was then six - we moved to Vienna, and that was the end of my long summer paradise in Gbell." [Private correspondence.]

The move to Vienna took place just a few weeks before the jubilee of Kaiser Franz Josef, which Hanna recalled with equal clarity:

"It would naturally not have been possible for us to risk going into the city on the actual day of the celebrations, but a few days earlier we drove into town in one of the coaches belonging to the factory, with me sitting on the box next to Herr Stummerer, the coachman, and saw something of the preparations and rehearsals for the great occasion. I remember especially the Votivkirche, whose rich decoration, illuminated in a rosy light, had the effect of a pastry-cook's creation. We drove all along the Ringstrasse and went back home via the river, between the Brigitta bridge and the Franz-Josef station." [Private correspondence.]

With a view to augmenting the family income, Hanna studied speech therapy at the out-patients' department of the hospital. A year after the marriage, in 1923, the first child, Franz, was born, to be followed, one year later, by Peter.

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