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Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926)
Symphony No. 10 (I Ein Sturm; II Ein Hymnus; III Ein Tanz; IV Ein Traum) (1997-2000) [38:13]
Quattro Poemi (I Elogio; II Egloga; III Elegia; IV Ditirambo) (1955) [10:38]
La Selva incantata - Aria et Rondo pour orchestre (1991) [11:35]
Orchestra National de Montpellier/Friedemann Layer
rec. live l'Opéra Berlioz de Montpellier 14 Feb 2004 (symphony); 10 Sept 2004. DDD
ACCORD 476 7156 [60:08]


Henze's music first crossed my path with a Proms broadcast performance of his Guéricault-inspired Raft of the Medusa circa 1973 - anyone care to give date specifics. I was at that time fascinated by the spiny bristling nature of the score and its violence. Its dissonance was completely out of tune with my then developing interest in the English and Scandinavian late-romantics. I had only just become interested in 'classical music' and had ‘other priorities’. I noticed then the two - or was it three - LP DG collection of his first six symphonies but did not rush after the experience.

Henze's break from the rigours of Darmstadt serialism came circa 1953 and coincided with his move to Italy. The Italian titles of two of these works also bear this out.

The Symphony No. 10 has a heartfelt Hymnus framed by a stunningly violent first movement and an equally riled war dance of a third movement. In fact that third movement had me thinking of Grainger's revolutionary ballet The Warriors. The first movement Ein Sturm is not quite as onomatopoeic as the similar works by Nystroem and Sibelius - both inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. The Henze movement was not related to Shakespeare. All the music here is freely dissonant yet not fragmented. Henze holds true to the ‘long line’ in his thinking and expression.

The Montpellier orchestra know the music well for they give a virtuoso performance not just in the splenetic furies of the first, third and final movements but also in the reflective and sometimes pained Hymnus and in much of the first part of the chimeric finale (Ein Traum). The voices in Henze's music include Berg and Stravinsky. It will certainly appeal if you enjoy the symphonies of Benjamin Frankel. In the finale the valedictory curvature of the music from berserker ire down to a gentle lapping is memorable.

The Tenth Symphony arose from a double source. Paul Sacher was the principal commissioner. However Sir Simon Rattle (a long time champion of Henze) had also been looking for an orchestral work. Rattle premiered the first movement with the CBSO on 30 March 2000 in Birmingham with the whole work launched at the Lucerne Festival on 17 August 2002.

Apparently the premiere (Frankfurt, 1955) of the brief Quattro Poemi, as conducted by Stokowski, was a disaster. The technical difficulties foxed conductor and musicians. The four movement is diffuse and fragmented in its expressive ‘line’. Dissonance is very assertive although there an engaging and skipping playfulness to the Egloga (more a ‘chasse’ than a rural idyll). The Elegia is outright in its sour sadness. The music is related to that of his second opera König Hirsch.

La Selva Incantata (The enchanted forest) is a medley drawn many years later from the material of three scenes from act II of the Gozzi-based König Hirsch. Written in 1991 its evolutionary approach is developed, continuity of lyrical line is in unequivocal dominance. While the winding sheet of dodecaphony is in evidence it is there as an accent the linguistic spine remains tunefully accessible. This is very much a fantasy overture mediating between the memory of Henze the wild-man of the avant-garde and Henze the lyrical communicator and even Henze the humorist.

These are live performances complete with applause in the case of the symphony. The audience is otherwise tacit.

The whole product is completed by better than creditable notes by Dorian Astor extremely lucidly translated by John Tyler Tuttle.

This is an invaluable and generous disc including two-Italian titled works which I do not recall seeing otherwise recorded. An important anthology with Henze's most recent symphony coupled with a work of his confident feral fifties and a brilliant jeu d'esprit from the 1990s.

Rob Barnett

Symphony No. 1 (1947)
Symphony No. 2 (1949)
Symphony No. 3 (1949-50))
Symphony No. 4 (in one movement) (1955)
Symphony No. 5 (1962)
Symphony No. 6 for two chamber orchestras (1969)
Symphony No. 7 (1983-84)
Symphony No. 8 A Midsummer Night's Dream (1992-93)
Symphony No. 9 (1995-97)
Symphony No. 10 (1997-2000)

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