Hans Werner HENZE
Hans Werner Henze and the Requiem
Nine spiritual concerti for solo piano, concertante trumpet and
large chamber orchestra, 1990-1992[67:24]
Miriam Wiesemann in conversation with Hans Werner Henze [49:19]
Miriam Wiesemann in conversation with Hans Werner Henze's friend
and assistant Michael Kerstan [42:19]
Dimitri Vassilakis (piano); Reinhold Friedrich (trumpet)
Bochumer Symphoniker/Steven Sloane
rec. 12 June, 2010, Philharmonie, Essen, Germany. DDD (CD1); 17
August, 2010, La Leprara, Henze's home in Marino near Rom, Italy
[3 SACDs: 67:24 + 49:19 + 42:19]
Michael Vyner was the director of the London Sinfonietta until
his death in October 1989, from AIDS. Less than a year later,
Henze lost a second friend, the composer Luigi Nono. These events,
presumably together with an awareness of his own mortality -
Henze was in his seventies - affected the German composer deeply.
In each case he began to write instrumental music which was
eventually expanded into a nine movement Requiem: after Vyner's
death, what is now the Introitus; after Nono's, what
now comprise the Dies Irae, Ave verum corpus and
Lux aeterna - in fact material originally conceived as
a piano quintet. Finally, less than a year later, Håken
Hardenberger commissioned a trumpet concerto from Henze; that
commission - and music written in sorrowful reaction to the
first Gulf War - generated music which found its way into the
Requiem as the Rex Tremendae, Lacrimosa, Sanctus
and Agnus Dei, Tuba mirum respectively.
The nine movements of a work with composite origins, but a totally
unified character, as the players here demonstrate, were complete.
Its full title remains 'Nine Spiritual Concerti for solo piano,
concertante trumpet and large chamber orchestra'; reference
to Schütz's Kleine geistliche Konzerte are deliberate
… suffering is indeed a private, as much as a public,
From this, it's easy to imagine just how unusual this Requiem
will sound, given the more conventional vocal, choral and usually
entirely liturgical form which the genre almost always takes.
Although Britten had incorporated secular poetry into his War
Requiem, also written to commemorate specific events nearly
thirty years earlier, it did include texts. None are even implied
in Henze's nevertheless atmospheric, moving, approachable and
very beautiful work.
It exudes sorrow, regret and a yearning for peace; together
with a measure of anger - particularly in the trumpet movements.
The framing of the work as a series of concerti is particularly
apposite: even in the cases of war and aggression, the suffering
is most keenly felt by individuals as individuals. In
the case of peace activists, socialists and those opposing prejudice
and violence (Henze, Nono's cases) the sense of lone voices
and opposing forces - referring to the structure of the concerto
from the late eighteenth century onwards - can be acute.
At the same time, there is enough variety - of themes, textures,
pace and colour - to make this odd construction powerfully effective.
No one movement is longer than nine minutes or so. And Henze's
superb skill at orchestration is evident throughout. Given that
the piece lasts over an hour, this is a considerable achievement.
The members of the Bochum Symphony Orchestra expertly conducted
by Steven Sloane are completely in tune with the Henze’s
conception. It is reticent almost to the point of withdrawal
and forward and urgent where the composer feels the need. It
is resigned and 'down' - though with no hint of drabness - as
is Henze. Very compelling.
It's to be noted that the titles of the nine movements, although
ostensibly and originally those of the Catholic Mass for the
Dead, were chosen by Henze as conveying innate qualities appropriate
to the wider humanistic 'message' of the work. Day of Wrath,
for example, has as much to do with the reaction of the onlooker
to torture and state terrorism as divine judgement.
For all the raw anger, regret, resentment and purer sadness,
this work is uplifting. The juxtaposition of the two solo instruments
(Dimitri Vassilakis' piano and Reinhold Friedrich's trumpet)
ensures a sense, if not of hope, of reassertion in the face
of trauma of any kind.
There is an alternative version of Henze's Requiem available:
with Ueli Wiget, Håkan Hardenberger himself and the Ensemble
Modern under Ingo Metzmacher on Sony 58972 dating from 1994
- one year after they gave the first performance. The present
release has the bonus of two CDs containing over an hour and
a half's conversation between German actor and author Miriam
Wiesemann and both Henze, and his friend and assistant Michael
Kerstan. Both conversations are in German. In compensation,
if you don't speak German, the threefold 'Digipak' is beautifully
produced, has a well-written booklet with illustrations of Henze's
world, background to his life and the composition of this work
as well as full production details. What's more these discs
are hybrid SACDs. The sound is superb.
It's a live performance, and one obviously thoroughly appreciated
by the audience. The acoustic suits the interpretation. It also
honours Steven Sloane's determination to let every bar breathe,
speak for itself and contribute to the overall impact. This
is so large as to make you want to return to the start as soon
as the applause dies away.
see also review by Dominy