HANS WERNER HENZE (1926-2012): Heliogabalus imperator - Allegoria per musica for Orchestra, Ouverture zu einem Theatre, 6 Englische Liebeslieder for Cello and Orchestra, Los caprichos - Fantasia for Orchestra.

Catalogue Number: 07V049

Label: Wergo

Reference: WER 7344 2

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: In an early essay explaining his attraction to the theatre, Henze wrote that "... enchantment, magic, masquerade, exclamation, pathos, and buffoonery come together with music in a way that makes it possible to show the “direction” in which life moves." This is equally true of much of Henze's music outside the theatre, which accounts for the compelling, communicative nature of his scores in any idiom, not least the three very different works here. Heliogabalus Imperator was described by the composer as "a series of cinematic, circus-like images of Rome as the city might have looked and sounded to Cecil B. DeMille. ... I took over the garish pop-art colors from my earlier pieces and reused them in a succession of images that inevitably contain elements of a spectacle, producing all the noise, vulgarity, showiness and bestiality so typical of Romans, then and now. A portrait of the life and times of the Roman emperor whose reputation has come down to us as a symbol of the hedonistic excess of Ancient Rome, this half-hour orchestral extravaganza is like a film score for which an accompanying film would be entirely superfluous. Much of the 1972 piece is broadly atonal (originally it contained aleatoric passages, which the composer later excised), though the brash, vulgar circus music of the orgy scene toward the end is not, qualifying as one of the most eyebrow-raising examples of polystylism on disc. Henze seems to have felt some sympathy for the unrestrained emperor, as an extended and rather beautiful passage for strings, with tonal harmonies, suggests his "purity and solemnity" according to the composer; the raucous Triumph with which the work opens, or the bizarre, hectoring dialogue of wind instruments in the Senate have more in common with the usual image of Heliogabalus. "English Love Songs" from 1984 is effectively a lyrical cello concerto in six movements which translate into music the cadences, meters and moods of poems - a principle central to Henze's musical thinking. The work is complex of texture, but especially in as exemplary a performance as this one is revealed to consist of layers of beautiful, often very tonal, material, with the soloist as eloquent, bardic narrator. By this stage, Henze was moving toward the new-Romanticism of his last period, and there is a good deal of tonality in this work, as there is in the much earlier Caprichos (1963-67) after Goya. The booklet notes strangely describe the orchestral Fantasia as of "mild and generally restrained character", but the music is for the most part as dark, grotesque and dramatic as Goya's disturbing etchings. Henze set out to express the "pain, sarcasm, and terror in Goya’s work without using too many expressive techniques from the 20th century. ..." which in the 1960s probably meant no aleatory or contemporary orchestral techniques, but not an absence of dramatic power or surreal menace. The brief overture, Henze's last completed work, delightfully and mischievously celebrates a lifetime of musical "... enchantment, magic, masquerade, exclamation, pathos, and buffoonery". Anssi Karttunen (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra; Oliver Knussen.

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