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Classical - Released June 3, 2016 | Oehms Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released June 8, 2018 | Naxos

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It's a safe bet that Hans Werner Henze's music for violin and piano, viola and piano, and solo violin, won't reach as wide an audience as an Nth collection of Mahler's symphonies, but for heaven's sake, let's have something new! And so here is a fine novelty, which follows the composer's creative life from 1946, for the Sonata for Violin and Piano (at the time he was just twenty) to 1999, the year of Peter Doll zum Abschied. There is a world between these two poles: the 1946 Sonata still bears the marks of Stravinsky and a touch of Bartók, while the two other short "memorial" pieces, Für Manfred (the famous German television producer who did so much for contemporary music, Manfred Gräter) and Peter Doll (in memory of the late director of Stuttgart Theatre) develop the most stripped-down, least-charged of Henze's language. Between these two poles, we hear the bitter Sonata for Solo Violin from 1977, austere, but still bearing the mark of a certain Italian something (Henze lived in Italy for many years), which is both lyrical and a little joyful; and the bigger Sonata for viola and piano dating from 1979, which presents an impressive counterpoint to the Sonata for Solo Violin, even though it was written so soon after. You could say that the first was "climbing" towards his ballet Orpheus, and the second was "unwinding" after. And finally, it is a pleasure to see the 1979 Sonata taken from the children's opera Pollicino, in which the listener is surprised to see a few counter-punctual and harmonic elements which wave, from afar, at Hindemith. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 13, 2019 | SWR Classic

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Classical - Released April 4, 2014 | Wergo

With this 2014 Wergo release, Marek Janowski and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra complete their cycle of the ten symphonies of Hans Werner Henze, one of Germany's leading composers of the post-WWII era. The Symphony No. 2 (1949) was Henze's first major twelve-tone composition for orchestra, and it was unusual for its time, insofar as the symphonic genre was largely ignored by the avant-garde, and this quintessentially tonal form was deemed antithetical to rigorous serial practice. Yet Henze's cogent themes and dramatic sensibility shaped this music into a powerful essay that is quite comparable to the symphonies of Shostakovich in its brooding energy and menacing echoes of martial music. The Symphony No. 10 (2000) turned out to be a memorial to Henze's friend, Paul Sacher, who first suggested commissioning it in 1977, and a tribute to Simon Rattle, who also asked Henze to write it. The music is cast in four movements with succinctly descriptive titles, though the storm, hymn, dance, and dream they suggest are utterly abstract and open to interpretation. While the playing is clear and apparently accurate, the recording seems unfocused and a bit murky, depending on which instruments were closest to the microphones. © TiVo
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Opera - Released June 5, 2020 | CapriccioNR

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The Prince of Homburg was a great, classical masterpiece of German theatre written by Heinrich von Kleist in 1808-10 a few months before his death and inspired by the memoirs of Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia. At times, the Prince falls into a dream-like state, causing him to accidentally disobey the commander in battle and lead his army to victory. Upon awaking from his sleepless stupor he is then plunged into a real-life nightmare as he faces the death penalty for having refused to obey orders. The flamboyant play was transformed into an opera by composer Hans Werner Henze and was premiered in Hamburg in 1960.This lyrical work follows Kleist’s play in that it is built around Frederick’s dreamworld. Henze and his librettist Ingeborg Bachmann expressed their dislike of German militarism and the horrors it caused in the 20th century through the play, whilst emphasising the aspect of the dream that shows the prince as an outsider who values both his honour and his freedom. Henze captures the essence of the story excellently, with music that draws skilfully on the operatic canon of Kleist’s time but is strictly serial and more expressive.After many years, this great work was finally recorded in 2019 at the Stuttgart Opera House, one of the most sophisticated opera houses in the world in terms of its repertoire. With an excellent ensemble in the hands of conductor Cornelius Meister, the musical director of the opera house chose to perform a revised version of the opera from 1991. Times have changed, and what once seemed abstruse is now viewed as a form of classicism. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released March 3, 2015 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Classical - Released October 18, 2013 | Wergo

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Classical - Released December 2, 2011 | Wergo

The three symphonies of Henze recorded here, his Third, Fourth, and Fifth, are were written over a span of 12 years, and are worlds apart in musical style, but they all reflect the influence on the Mediterranean and all are related to some extent to his stage works. Even though it was written in 1950, before the composer had settled in Italy, the Third Symphony has a sensuous, Mediterranean character, and the titles of the movements refer to ancient mythology. Henze's orchestration is often brilliantly colorful, but here it is particularly sun-drenched and its gestures are more Romantic than is typical in his later work, which sometimes tends toward the acerbic. Soon after its premiere, it was staged as a ballet, Invocation of Apollo. The Fourth and Fifth symphonies were written after the composer's move to Italy and both deal with the clash between Dionysian and Apollonian sensibilities, a theme common in Henze's work, but their soundworlds are less conventionally lyrical and more aggressively modern. The Fourth, in one long movement, was lifted with only minor modification from a long scene that was cut from the premiere of the 1956 opera König Hirsch. Leonard Bernstein commissioned the Fifth Symphony for the New York Philharmonic in 1962, and it derives its core thematic material from the opera Elegy for Young Lovers. All three are masterful examples of orchestral writing and should appeal to fans of contemporary symphonic developments. Henze's music is not always easy to put across; it's dense with detail, and in less skilled hands can sound murky and undifferentiated, but these performances get at the music's essence and do it full justice. Marek Janowski draws absolutely superb playing from Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. The playing is crisply precise, the orchestral sound is clean, and Janowski gives clear shape to the music's lines and contours and arcs. Wergo's sound is detailed and pure, and the ambience is warm and lively. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 6, 2010 | Wergo

This second recording of Henze's monumental Ninth Symphony again features Rundfunkchor Berlin, the choir that gave it its premiere in 1997, with the Berlin Philharmonic, led by Ingo Metzmacher. In Wergo's 2009 release of the seven-movement symphony, Marek Janowski conducts the choir, with Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Henze was aware of the expectations created by a "ninth symphony" -- that it be an artistic summation, a work of considerable substance that addresses a universal theme -- and he takes on the devastation of the suffering caused by the Nazi regime, and the courage of those who attempted to stand against it. Henze has the chorus, using texts by his frequent collaborator Hans-Ulrich Treichel, based on a Holocaust novel by Anna Seghers, singing almost continuously, except for an orchestral epilogue to the fifth movement. The scoring is so chorally and orchestrally dense that it's difficult to tell precisely whether it is Henze's labyrinthine writing or a flaw of engineering that accounts for the tendency of the sound to be somewhat murky, but the responsibility is probably the composer's, because the moments that are lightly scored, particularly the final movement, stand out in strong relief. That is not necessarily a flaw in the music, given its horrific subject matter, but a testimony to Henze's success in creating a harrowing atmosphere of confusion and disoriented terror. This is not music that can be experienced dispassionately; it compels the listener to either succumb and be drawn into the power of its nightmarish imagery or turn away from it. The choir and orchestra perform the demanding score with relentless intensity and passion. Henze's Ninth Symphony is not for the weak of heart, but for listeners willing to confront the overwhelming horrors it so grippingly portrays, and it can be immensely moving. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 6, 2010 | Wergo

The symphony is not a genre that immediately comes to mind when thinking of Henze, but by 2009 he had composed 10, a not inconsiderable achievement. Here, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, led by Marek Janowski, plays two of his most substantial (and traditional) symphonies: No. 7 and No. 8. No. 7, written in 1984, was commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic. The composer has said that the symphony was for him "the opening of a door to something other than what I had done thus far," and that change is apparent in the music, which has an expansiveness and expressive sweep that does indeed signal a new level of emotional transparency. The first movement has a kind of abstract Hindemithian rigor in its counterpoint, but the remaining three movements are unabashedly soulful and poignant, with an unfettered lyricism to which the composer had rarely given such free rein previously. The final movement, an orchestral setting of a Hölderlin poem, has a soaring Romantic eloquence that carries the listener along until the mood is shattered by a brashly powerful apocalyptic conclusion. The three movements of the Eighth Symphony are based on incidents and speeches from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the music reflects the lightness and magic of the subject matter. This is not a frothy lightness, though; the music still has Henze's characteristic textural density and complexity, but without the pronounced angst. The second and third movements in particular are, respectively, humorously and tenderly expressive. The orchestral performances are polished and disciplined, but Janowski gives the music's lyricism plenty of room to blossom. Wergo's sound is clean and balanced, but doesn't have the clarity and spaciousness to let details of orchestration emerge with the necessary distinction. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 17, 2019 | Wergo

Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | Wergo

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Classical - Released August 7, 2008 | Phoenix Edition

Why there has not been a recording of Hans Werner Henze's 1993 Eighth Symphony before this 2004 recording is anyone's guess. The work is a masterfully scored, brilliantly evocative, and astoundingly beautiful three-movement piece based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. And yet this performance with Markus Stenz leading the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln is its first and only recording. Thankfully, it is an outstanding release in every way. Stenz clearly understands Henze's skillful blending of expressive lyricism and almost but not quiet atonal harmonies, and he forges them into a cogent and compelling whole. The highly polished and tremendously virtuosic Gürzenich-Orchester Köln plays Henze's demanding music with ease and there's no question of its dedication. Generously coupled with only the second recording of his Nachtstücke und Arien (here with soprano Claudia Barainsky) and the first recording of the orchestral suite from his opera Die Bassariden, this disc ought to be mandatory listening for anyone interested in postwar European music. Phoenix Edition's digital sound is clean, but too recessed to let all the details of the scores come through. © TiVo
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Secular Vocal Music - Released November 10, 2017 | SWR Classic

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released May 1, 2016 | Brilliant Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released January 1, 1996 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released January 1, 1996 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released March 28, 2014 | Wergo

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Classical - Released October 21, 2011 | Wergo

The four selections on this essential volume, all performed by the NDR Sinfonieorchester and conducted by Peter Ruzika, represent distinct periods in composer Hans Werner Henze's long and varied career; they are all turning points, so to speak, beginning with "Drei Sinfonische Etüden" (Three Symphonic Studies). These are the first of his orchestral pieces that employed the use of serial technique in 1955. While they are somewhat representative of the influence of the second Viennese school, they also reflect the work of composer such as Paul Hindemith in their transitory intervals and Darius Milhaud in his colored impressionist period. The restraint of the latter two composers is evident in the first of the studies, where the drama of Webern and middle-period Berg reveal themselves as language possibilities in the second and third, as rhythm and dynamic considerations are treated serially without engaging the systems of "old harmony" at all. The second etude, which was reworked in 1964, is far more dynamic in scope and practical as serial technique to the point of dogmatism. Note the fortissimo in the upper range of the bassoon. The "Quatrro Poemi" ("Four Poems") was composed in 1954. The poems were composed at the same time as an opera by Henze entitled König Hirsch, and each of them reflects tonally and harmonically the narrative sequences from the opera, In fact, as tone poems they almost seem to be cadenzas written for the end of each act and prefiguring, or foreshadowing, the proceeding one. The mood is plaintive, restrained, and even somber, color palettes are narrow and the only real movement, in the second piece, is where percussion makes a brief appearance to keep the narrative of the works static. Their roots sources borrow from the myth in the opera and from German folksongs sung by goat herders at the turn of the century. The most controversial and perhaps satisfying work here is the "Nachstücke und Arien," ("Nocturnes and Arias"). It's premier caused the walkout of Stockhausen, Boulez, and Nono, and caused the program's director to give Henze the cold shoulder. The reason? Here, Henze abandons serialism and embraces the texts of Inge Bachmann as they were written: to be the "mirror of a beautiful past." Given modernism's harsh rigidity at the time, and the piece's hearkening back to periods that echo Bruckner and Mahler, it is no wonder that the trio of "spirits" of the age stalked out after 13 measures. No matter, the work is stunning with a rich palette that doesn't ignore serialism or other techniques, just subdues them in the lush harmonic quilt of the nocturnes. Had the triumvirate stuck around, they would have heard the beautiful evocation of Schöenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Verklarte Nächte and late Hindemith's song structures. The work was based around an idea for a short opera based on a text by Cocteau, and in its dreamy surreality, where winds and strings hold shimmering glissandi behind the soprano it is easy to hear why. This work is, with the possible exception of members of the New York School, as pure a union of poetry and music as existed in the latter part of the 20th century. The final work is the aria and rondo from König Hirsch, the "La Selva Incantata," ("The Enchanted Forest"). Using the inspiration from Berg's Lulu, he transposed a tenor aria from the fourth scene of second act for orchestra and added music from the third and second scenes -- in that order -- and created an orchestral enchanted forest that for its brevity (11 minutes) is among the composer's most beautiful compositions ever. Movement and color are the hallmarks with dynamic rushes of brass and the swirl of woodwinds sweeping through their brash statements andante before giving way to a lush pianissimo song by the French horn and bassoon together creeping through the silence of the score until they find what they are looking for. When the enchantment occurs, all darkly festive and colored by strings and reeds until bassoon's and brass march through the finale with grim purpose toward an unknown future. As mentioned earlier, this is a stunning introduction to a prolific composer's body of work, brilliantly illustrating via stellar performances and crystalline sound. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Opera - Released March 8, 2019 | Orfeo