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Thread: Hans Werner Henze

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    Default Hans Werner Henze

    Hans Werner Henze (b.1926) is one of the most significant European composers of the C20th.

    In 1944, at the age of seventeen, Henze was dragged out of music school and drafted into the German army. He was later captured and stayed in a British prisoner of war camp. After the war, he resumed his musical studies with Wolfgang Fortner and Rene Leibowitz. Following this he took up various directorships and advisorships, before leaving Germany to live in Italy in 1950. The reasons for this are clear: the heavy handed way homosexuals were treated in Germany by the police and courts, and the banning of the German Communist party, in which Henze was actively involved. He also didn't like the way his countrymen were dealing with the aftermath of the holocaust by putting their heads in the sand.

    Henze is probably the most political composer of the C20th. His operas, in particular, are based on political ideas and stories. He has taken the expressionism of Hindemith, the modernism of Stravinsky, and the serialism of Schoenberg as starting points to build a unique style. He has written music in all genres, operas, ballets, symphonies, concertos, chamber music and vocal.

    I have just acquainted myself with his Violin Concertos. His Violin Concerto No. 1 is one of the best I have heard for the instrument. Although it is influenced by the serialism of Berg's Concerto, it is a very passionate, intense and dark work. It is not academic or dry and sounds very mature for the work of a 21 year old. Indeed, the horrors he must have witnessed at a very young age during the war must have contributed greatly to this maturity.

    I am interested in what other works people know by this remarkable composer.

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    I have heard only two compositions by this composer, his Symphony No.7 and Ariosi su poesie di Torquato Tasso (for soprano, violin and orchestra).

    The symphony is extremely dark and totally atonal, so it's definitely not my cup of tea. It is, however, very interesting and mysterious, so I would recommend it to those who like atonal music better than I do.

    The Ariosi, also atonal, are much more gentle and lyrical, and although I don't listen to the work often, I find it quite attractive and listenable. The soprano and the violin intertwine beautifully.
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    Senior Member Herzeleide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    Hans Werner Henze (b.1926) is one of the most significant European composers of the C20th.
    Bit of an overstatement, non?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Herzeleide View Post
    Bit of an overstatement, non?
    No, not at all. There are entries of him in most of the general books on classical composers I've read, including The Rough Guide to Classical Music. These books tend to leave out some other composers, such as Ernest Bloch and Arthur Bliss, but not Henze.

    Henze has been one of the major figures of the music scene in Europe for decades & is still active, as far as I can gather. Even though his style has changed, is difficult to shoebox & he has had his idiosyncracies, he has had big staying power. You can't say that of many composers today. & as I stated above, his music comes from a wide range of influences, including neo-classicism, atonalism, modernism, jazz & even rock. So he has reacted to the current trends, whatever they may be, but has maintained his unique style.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lisztfreak
    I have heard only two compositions by this composer, his Symphony No.7 and Ariosi su poesie di Torquato Tasso (for soprano, violin and orchestra)...very interesting and mysterious...attractive and listenable...I would recommend it to those who like atonal music better than I do.
    In contrast, thanks for sharing your experience of those works. I think one needs to have this flexibility when listening to contemporary music. I am interested in such works & plan to get more Henze at some stage in the future. I think that his atonalism is more like that of Berg than Schoenberg, less academic and more expressive.
    Last edited by Sid James; May-14-2009 at 04:23.

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    Senior Member danae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    There are entries of him in most of the general books on classical composers I've read, including The Rough Guide to Classical Music
    Personally I'd stay away from books like that (generally speaking, not regarding H.W.Henze)

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    Quote Originally Posted by danae View Post
    Personally I'd stay away from books like that (generally speaking, not regarding H.W.Henze)
    Well, The Rough Guide to Classical Music was actually praised by BBC music magazine for being "no idiot's guide." I think it is a useful book for a layperson like me, but if you want to get more academic, then by all means go to access specialist music journals, etc. I think that books like this are a good starting point for people interested in classical music.

    Getting back to Henze, I've just re-listened to his Violin Concerto No. 1 & it appears to me that there is somewhat of a struggle in it going on between the orchestra, which sounds rather brutal at times, and the soloist. The latter seems to shelter from the onslaught of sounds from the orchestra by going solo, playing short or longer cadenzas throughout each movement. It's like a solitary person's struggle against a nightmare, caught in the wilderness. This is particularly apparent in the final movement, which employs the rhythms found in Stravinsky's music.

    If you asked me whether I liked Schoenberg's or Henze's Violin Concerto better, I would choose the latter. It seems more emotional and expressive. It is tied up with the composer's own mental and physical struggle as a young man who had experienced the horror of war.

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Henze has established himself as deriving from no school and belonging to no school. One will always find 'influences' if looking for them but generally he stands alone having weathered the 60s avant garde and its unfortunate fallout from the 90s onwards. He seemed to take up the Romantic cause at first in works like Undine and the (hugely political) Raft of the Medusa but developed beyond that.

    A composer to whom I can always listen. The Cantata is particularly beautiful.

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    Time to get the dust of this thread!
    I am a newborn fan. Dont know much yet, but he tuch something by me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oskaar View Post
    Time to get the dust of this thread!
    I am a newborn fan. Dont know much yet, but he tuch something by me.
    Yeah, good dusting. I enjoy Henze's instrumental music. Mostly the phrases don't connect with me, but the 'long line' does. In that way he is similar to Berg.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member Oskaar's Avatar
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    Wonderful record!

    http://open.spotify.com/album/6NVdbsWFugAOYkAO0hr7GD
    http://www.amazon.com/20th-Century-C...3115429&sr=8-1



    Barcarola City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle

    Thrilling and adventurous. Very intensive, and sometime it seems that all instruments are highlighted at once! Loveley chaos. I dont find it difficult to listen too. So much is happening, and I find that exiting. Also a lot of moods and textures are exposed.



    Symphony No. 7 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle

    Great nerve, and it creates great images and moods. When I'm in the mood for this kind of music, it's definitely the music that gives me the most. I am an old prog-rock fan, and repeated adventures with such as Gentle Giant, makes me well trained to get more out of this music.


    Sinfonie Nr.9 Für Gem. Chor Und Orchester: Berliner Philharmoniker/Rundfunkchor Berlin/Ingo Metzmacher

    I have not explored as much choral music yet, but there is no doubt that it is amazing when I listen to it. The work is fantastic! Very dramatic and exciting and full of highlights. "Bei the Toten" gives me goosebumps! It makes "die plates spricht" too. I think it's much easier to like choral music when there are so many variations that here, in relation to f.ex Bach where it gets too repetitive. But I'll probably get to the point where I like that too! Still listening, and even more amazed. I find the performance very good!


    Three Auden Songs: Ian Bostridge/Julius Drake


    Very nice!

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    I recently was listening to the Naxos violin concertos cd. I agree, referring to that, with Hilltroll's comparison to Berg. & I've also got that EMI 2 disc set, oskaar, and I do aim to return to it at some stage soon. I remember it as quite good, I haven't listened to it in a while, I esp. remember enjoying the Barcarola and the Auden Songs, which showcase Ian Bostridge's kind of clarity-focussed style very well...

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    Sinfonie Nr.9 Für Gem. Chor Und Orchester

    Anyone else have some comments on this work? I found it exeptionally good!

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    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    One of the first LPs I acquired was of a young Christoph Eschenbach playing the second piano concerto under the composer's baton. (Superb DG cover illustration, by the way.) It seems to be available in an Eschenbach Brilliant Classics box set and is well worth acquiring. The last movement is a setting for piano and orchestra of Shakespeare's sonnet, "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust in action.."

    Also Tristan, for piano, tape and orchestra. I don't think this was ever reissued on CD.

    To get a good grip on Henze it is well worth getting to know the works of the fifties and sixties and then expanding forwards. In this time he merged German rigour with the sundrenched tones of Italy where he had taken up residence. In addition to the works mentioned above, you need to listen to the first five symphonies, the violin concerto, Ondine (wonderful), Ode to the west wind, the opera Koenig Hirsch (never recorded, but some of its music became the fourth symphony), and the oboe and harp concerto amonst others.

    Coming forward a decade, The raft of the frigate Medusa is essential, the sixth symphony, Voices, Essay on pigs. Get these under your belt if you can.
    Last edited by Jeremy Marchant; Dec-06-2011 at 00:56.

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    Senior Member Oskaar's Avatar
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    Look as you have reached the meeting now, Jeremy!

    And thanks for the advices.

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    I've explored his symphonies at different times. Personally I break these into two groups, his "early" ones, numbers 1 to 6, and the late ones, 7 to 10 - so far.

    I never cared much for the first 6 symphonies (the old DG set).. (though I'm due for a reassessment, its been some years since I heard them), but Henze's late symphonic flowering is powerful deep music, not easily approachable, but significant. Some of the most important symphonies of the last 30 years in my view, up there with those of Penderecki and Schnittke's last three.

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