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HENZE: Guitar Music, Vol. 1

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Hans Werner Henze (b. 1926)

Guitar Music, Vol. 1

 There can be few other living composers who have had suchremarkable success with an extraordinary quantity of music in all genres. Abrief glance at Henze's catalogue outlines a formidable series of symphonies, stageworks (both opera and ballet), concertos and quartets, and it is on theselarge-scale and solidly Teutonic structures, often unconventional in formal designand personal in their approach, that his stature as one of Europe's foremostcomposers rests.

Born in Westphalia in 1926, Henze received his earliestmusical training against the background of Nazism, becoming a reluctant recruitinto the Hitler Youth movement and, in 1944, serving as a radio operator with aPanzer division. After the war he returned to his formal education, studyingfirst with Wolfgang Fortner, and later with Rene Leibowitz in Darmstadt and Paris, where he encountered serial techniques. It was, however, the music of Stravinsky, Hindemithand Schoenberg that Henze turned to as models for his earliest neo-classicalpieces whose innate lyricism was to mark his oeuvre across a sixty-year composingcareer. Both his first Violin Concerto and First Symphony of 1947quickly established Henze as Germany's answer to the musical vacuum resulting fromthe aftermath of Nazism.

Unhappy with post war social attitudes and ashamed of Germany's recent past he moved to Italy in 1953; first to Ischia, then Naples, and eventuallysettling near Rome. From this southern move a new, sunny radiance filtered intohis compositions that generated a sequence of stage works beginning in 1955with Konig Hirsch (King Stag) and culminating, ten years later, with hisunparalleled operatic success The Bassarids. From the late 1960s therefollowed a series of politically motivated works (with overtly communistsympathies), that included the ill fated Hamburg premiere of his oratorio TheRaft of the Medusa, the chamber piece El Cimarron and his opera LaCubana. As well as these large-scale 'public' works Henze found time in the1970s for a number of more private projects, including three string quartets,and his two Shakespearean themed guitar sonatas.

This Second Sonata on Shakespearean Characters datesfrom 1978-79 and, like the first from three years earlier, was prompted by thedistinguished guitarist Julian Bream. The three character studies from the secondgroup complete a cycle of nine solo guitar pieces (six in the first set) thatbegin with a mad king and end with a mad queen. Henze makes virtuosic demands inall of these works, extending the boundaries of guitar technique in acomprehensive survey that brings to mind, on a different level, the greatkeyboard works by Bach or Beethoven. Indeed, when Julian Bream first approachedHenze for a solo guitar work he had jokingly suggested a piece on the scale ofBeethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata.

In 'Sir Andrew Aguecheek' Henze uses a kind of additivevariation form to portray the gullible and melancholy knight from TwelfthNight who was 'adored once'. A minor key march, pedestrian in character andsuggestive perhaps both of a na?»ve energy and determined will, frames passages,ritornello-like, in which the recurring breakdown of tonality mirrorsSir Andrew's own failure in life. Appoggiaturas and sweet-sounding chords pointto his gentle nature.

This gentle mood is carried over in 'Bottom's Dream', (thedream of the simple weaver from A Midsummer Night's Dream) in which theopening thirds convey his serene dream-like state. Melodic compactness andcounterpoint punctuated by frequent rests and empty bars create a sense ofelasticity and pleasant languor.

This mood is swept aside by the dramatic motif beginning theremarkably imaginative and searching portrait of Mad Lady Macbeth. Theopening malevolent flourish conveys, in just a few notes, her ruthless power andvolatile mood. In its dissonance, sudden changes of pace and weight andrestless central dance episodes, Henze draws us into her unstable state ofmind, bringing motivic ideas back a half step higher to depict Lady Macbeth'srising hysteria.

This Second Sonata was first performed in Brussels in 1980 by Reinbert Evers.

The three Holderlin settings form part of what may belikened to an extended song-cycle that Henze called Kammermusik 1958, awork for tenor and guitar soloists with eight other instruments settingFriedrich Holderlin's In lieblicher Blaue (In lovely blueness). Writtenfollowing a visit to Greece (the inspiration also for Holderlin's poem), thework was commissioned by North German Radio. Its virtuosic vocal writing, coveringa range of two octaves, is largely atonal and expressionistic; its musicallanguage recalling his brief preoccupation with serialism at Darmstadt. By deliberatecontrast (Henze musically illustrates the polarity between the world of ancient Greece and the modern world), the writing for the guitar is far less complex:in the first, the accompaniment looks back across the centuries to a Dowlandlute-song, the second is more contemporary and chromatic, while the third borrowsfrom Benjamin Britten to whom the work is dedicated.

Henze's Drei Tentos, three intermezzos, like the DreiFragmente nach Holderlin were also originally part of Kammermusik 1958 andare short, very approachable pieces that feature in every professional guitarist'srepertoire. The first piece, essentially lyrical, is characterized by aterseness of material based on a recurring four-note motif, with a hightessitura and a dynamic level that rarely rises above pianissimo. The secondfeatures driving rhythms that propel the semiquaver movement forward in themanner of Stravinsky. Lyricism returns in the third, this time with melodic contoursof Neapolitan origin.

Selbst und Zwiegesprache
(Monologues and Dialogues), a chamber work for viola,guitar and organ (or piano as recorded here) dates from 1984-1985, the periodbetween his two operas The English Cat and Das verratene Meer androughly contemporary with his Seventh Symphony. Henze constructs a dialogue betweenthe instruments in the manner of its title. In his performance directions Henzestipulates that each of the three instrumentalists may play their part as asolo as well as in combination with one another. In this performance there aresix sections: piano, viola and guitar alone, followed by two duets and a finaltrio. In returning to goal-orientated harmony Henze allies himself with Germanromanticism in this work's rhapsodic style and rich textures.

Henze uses Styrian (Austrian) peasant songs as the creativesource for his Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesange (New Folk Songs andShepherds' Melodies), scoring for a folk-like combination of bassoon (shepherd'sshawm), guitar and string trio. These seven movements from 1996 are derivedfrom his musical play Oedipus der Tyrann (King Oedipus) of 1983 that waslater withdrawn.

In the opening 'Pastorale' bassoon and guitar take on ther??les of the peasant musicians and play a total of five varied verses, each oneconcluding with a quietly echoing dialogue between the two instruments, withthe string trio providing an energetic accompaniment. The Styrian folk materialis suggested through rhythmic and melodic fragments.

After the brief and melancholy 'Morgenlied' there followsa more energetic 'Ballade' in which constantly changing metre (heardfirst in the guitar) provides a rhythmic landscape to the melodic counterpointthat unfolds as each instrument enters. There is an extended cadenza and aconcluding reminiscence of the opening. The rustic 'Tanz' givesprominence to bassoon and guitar in another lively pea
Disc: 1
Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge
1 I. Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Marcia, non troppo funebr
2 II. Bottom’s Dream: Adagietto, con comodo – Adagio
3 III. Mad Lady Macbeth: Fiercely – Meno mosso – Piu
4 No. 1. In lieblicher Blaue
5 No. 2. Mocht ich ein Komet sein?
6 No. 3. Wenn einer in den Spiegel siehet
7 No. 1. Tranquillamente
8 No. 2. Allegro rubato
9 No. 3. Lento
10 Selbst- und Zwiegesprache (Monologues and Dialogue
11 I. Pastorale
12 II. Morgenlied
13 III. Ballade
14 IV. Tanz
15 V. Rezitativ
16 VI. Abendlied
17 VII. Ausklang
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