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Tagged with 'Hans Werner Henze'

Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: Das Floß der Medusa

Shipwreck at the airport: Hans Werner Henze's oratorio Das Floß der Medusa (‘The Raft of the Medusa’) opens the new season at the Komische Oper Berlin. In Hangar 1 of Tempelhof Airport, Tobias Kratzer stages the great question of humanity, which revolves around the calculated drowning of underprivileged people on the high seas. The premiere will take place on September 16, 2023 under the musical direction of Titus Engel.

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Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: La piccola Cubana

In La piccola Cubana, Hans Werner Henze tells a turbulent story of vaudeville singer Rachel during a time of radical social transformation in pre-revolutionary Cuba. A piece with a strong personal connection, Henze aimed to involve smaller ensembles, hence the title “La piccola Cubana”. Originally a television opera with texts by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Jobst Liebrecht arranged this work for chamber ensemble ten years after the death of Henze. The premiere takes place at the Berlin State Opera performed by members of the Staatskapelle under the baton of Adrian Heger.

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World Premiere of an early Violin Concerto by Hans Werner Henze

On 4 February 2021, 21:05 GMT Konzertmusik for violin and small chamber orchestra by Hans Werner Henze will receive it's world premiere. After several attempts to perform the work had to be cancelled in 2020, the Bavarian Radio will broadcast a studio recording with Peter Tilling and the Ensemble risonanze erranti. This will officially mark the world premiere of the composition.

Konzertmusik is the earliest work composed by Hans Werner Henze and published by Schott: the concerto for violin and small chamber orchestra, written when he was only 17. It was not until the end of World War II that he was able to devote himself intensively to composition: a short time later, he was signed by Schott. The composition reveals its inspiration from Paul Hindemith. In its chamber music structure, a series of instruments from the ensemble including flute, trumpet and the first player of violin I repeatedly take on small solo passages and accompany the solo violin in groups of two or three. In the finale however, a ‘genuine’ virtuoso violin concerto unfolds in miniature.

Porträt Hans Werner Henze: © Schott Music / Hans Kenner

Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: The Bassarids

With almost every opera house and concert hall around the world closed, we focus this week on a recent production of Hans Werner Henze´s opera The Bassarids, currently available for free on the online platform OperaVision. Reviews of Barrie Kosky´s staging and Vladimir Jurowski´s musical direction were splendid so this is a fantastic opportunity to explore the depths of this opera, considered a pinnacle of not only Henze´s dramatic output but of the entire mid-century classicism in opera.

The libretto for The Bassarids, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based on Euripides’ Bacchae; it tells the story of Pentheus, the new ruler of Thebes, banning the cult of Dionysus before being unwittingly drawn into the revelry by Dionysus himself, disguised as a stranger. Pentheus is eventually killed by his own mother, who has mistaken him for a wild animal, before Dionysus reveals his true identity and demands adoration from the Thebans for his revenge against the tyrant. The one-act opera’s large instrumentation and sophisticated libretto make The Bassarids an ambitious project. With Dionysus and Pentheus embodying two extremes of human existence, there is great potential for reference to the present day.

Today I consider The Bassarids, which I now understand to a far greater degree and hold much dearer than when I was composing the work, to be my most important music theatre work. It is […] still relevant for us, but specifically addresses questions associated with the years around 1968: what is freedom and what is bondage? What is repression, what is revolt and what is revolution? This is all in fact demonstrated, insinuated and suggested by Euripides. The multiplicity and richness of relationships, the tangible sensual relationships between the ancient civilisation of this Archaic period and our time are captured in Auden’s text; Euripides is transposed into our time in a manner which could not have been better achieved with the best possible stage production of the original Greek play, as we are constantly reminded of our distance from a different, long-gone civilisation. – Hans Werner Henze

The video will be available to stream on demand until 13 April and a final performance of the Komische Oper Berlin production is scheduled for 26 June.

photo: © Komische Oper Berlin / Monika Rittershaus

Work of the Week – Richard Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder

Although known predominantly for his operas, Richard Wagner’s oeuvre includes many orchestral and chamber works. Among these is Wesendonck-Lieder for voice and piano, which will be performed this week in the version orchestrated by Felix Mottl in Luxembourg and in the arrangement for ensemble by Hans Werner Henze in the UK, Switzerland and Germany.
While in exile in Zurich, Wagner met the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck, who quickly became his friend and sponsor. Between 1857 and 1858 Wagner became infatuated with Otto’s wife, Mathilde, as is documented in copious correspondence between the two. The affair inspired Wagner to write a piano sonata and the Wesendonck-Lieder, a setting of five of Mathilde’s poems. The relationship only ended when a letter was intercepted by Wagner’s then wife, Minna.

Richard Wagner and Mathilde Wesendonck: ‘Our songs’

This song cycle gives an insight into Wagner’s tormented mental state at the time, alternating between exuberant euphoria and delusional distress. Mathilde also inspired a soft lyricism that is not widely observed in his operatic works. Wagner revisited some of the material from the Wesendonck-Lieder in his opera Tristan and Isolde which he was concurrently writing: the third and fifth songs in the cycle are subtitled “Studie zu Tristan und Isolde”.
There have been many versions of the song cycle, with Felix Mottl’s orchestration for large orchestra being the most popular. Hans Werner Henze didn’t consider his 1976 version for alto and chamber ensemble an arrangement, as it allows for a larger range of creativity in the voice part and introduces modern harmonic structures to the accompaniment.
I have not written anything better than these songs and very few of my works will be remembered besides them. – Wagner in a letter to Mathilde

Henze’s version of the Wesendonck-Lieder can be heard on 20 November in Stadthalle Braunschweig with soprano Jelena Kordiæ, on 21 November in Geneva with alto Sara Mingardo and on 25 November in Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh with mezzosoprano Cheryl Forbes. The Felix Mottl version for large orchestra will be performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Bernard Haitink and soprano Eva Maria Westbroek on 21 November at the Philharmonie in Luxemburg.

Work of the Week - Hans Werner Henze: Elegy for Young Lovers

On 2 July, a production of Henze’s opera Elegy for Young Lovers will be staged by the Armel Opera Competition and the Liszt Academy in celebration of what would have been Henze’s 90th birthday on 1 July. The production will be directed by András Almási-Tóth with the Pannon Philharmonic conducted by Gergely Vajda at the Thália Theatre, Budapest.

Elegy for Young Lovers is set in an inn near the Austrian Alps where poet Gregor Mittenhofer has assembled a circle of loyal companions: his secretary countess Carolina, his physician Dr. Reischmann, his lover Elizabeth, and Hilda Mack who is haunted by the husband she last saw 40 years ago before he vanished in the mountains. Elisabeth falls in love with Toni Reischmann, the son of Mittenhofer’s doctor and although Mittenhofer agrees to let Elisabeth go, he begs her for one last labour of love: The young couple must bring him an Edelweiss from the mountains. Mittenhofer and the countess fail to warn Elizabeth and Toni that there is a snow storm approaching and soon after they set out into the mountains the storm comes. The young lovers both die, tightly embraced in each other’s arms.

Henze worked with two of his most admired American authors, W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, to write the libretto. In his autobiography he writes about their collaboration:
I told them I wanted a small group of singers and a small instrumental ensemble comprising no more than twenty players. These instruments might perhaps play a role within the piece’s dramaturgical structure by being identified with particular characters. I told them that I would like the work to be a psychological drama, a chamber drama that would deal in the most general terms with questions of guilt and atonement, in other words, with subtle and complex issues. I was delighted with this draft and even while reading it could already hear the artificial air of the Hammerhorn buzzing in my ears. I could already hear the first notes of the music for the two lovers, delicate flowers, meadow saffron and violets, and the grotesque, Wotanesque huffing and puffing of Mittenhofer, the cold-hearted poet who offers up human sacrifices to his Muse. These people are real people, modern men and women, with their weaknesses and strengths, mortals, not gods or heroes or any other kind of supernatural beings. – Hans Werner Henze

Elegy for Young Lovers will also be staged in spring 2017 at the Theater an der Wien with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Albrecht. Further birthday performances include a concert of Henze’s chamber works to be performed in his home town, Gütersloh on 1 July, and the orchestral works L'usignolo dell'imperatore and Seconda sonata per archi in Montepulciano.