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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1946) [26:57]
Violin Concerto No. 3 (1997 (Esmeralda, Das Kind Echo, Rudi S) [33:24]
Five Night-Pieces (1990 (Elegie, Capriccio, Shepherd's Song I, Shepherd's Song II, Ode) [9:09]
Peter Sheppard Skaerved (violin)
Aaron Schorr (piano);
Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Christopher Lyndon-Gee.
rec. Grosse Sendesaal, Saarbrucken, Germany, 14-17 September 2004;
NAXOS 8.557738 [69:30]


This is another offering from the broadening Naxos contemporary repertoire stable which takes in the specially commissioned string quartet series from Peter Maxwell Davies. Henze has not been neglected; there is a companion volume to this disc, devoted to Henze’s guitar music.
 
The two violin concertos given here are separated by just over fifty years. One is a youthful but remarkably assured work from the composer's early years, the other a mature development of a recognisably similar artistic voice. The movement titles of the Third come from Thomas Mann's novel Dr Faustus. There are helpful introductory notes written by the conductor.
 
The sound-world of these works is lean and muscular, recognisable from the composer's middle symphonies particularly. It is ascetic and complex, one of Henze's closest influences being Stravinsky. Although they might be considered challenging listening by anyone except contemporary music aficionados, they are both beautiful and intellectually stimulating and repay the listener's effort with dividends.
 
Henze is perhaps best known for his personal history. He was a reluctant German conscript held by the British at North Sea Camp as an enemy alien. He became an outspoken critic of his native country, choosing after the war to make his home in Rome and to champion the Left; his sixth symphony was premiered in Cuba to trade union members. He is a prolific composer, writing in a diverse range of forms - symphonies, concertos, chamber music, opera and other vocal works.
 
The Night Pieces are here performed by their dedicatees, who premiered them at London's Purcell Room. They were written shortly after the Viola Sonata. The Shepherd Songs make a punning reference to the name of the violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved, a long-time collaborator of the composer and for whom they were written. Here he introduces them in the covering notes.
 
In short: high quality playing of very original and stimulating music all at the usual bargain price. The recording quality is very creditable too.
 
Julie Williams

see also reviews by Dominy Clements and Jonathan Woolf

 

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