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Henze: Ode an der Westwind, Neapolitan Songs, Dithyrambs / Halffter, Rivinius

Release Date: 10/11/2005 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 894040   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
Performer:  Gustav RiviniusRoland Hermann
Conductor:  Stanislaw SkrowaczewskiCristobal HalffterGünther Wich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

These three works date from the 1950s, when Henze was 27 to 32 years of age. He was already an experienced, widely heard composer, and all three works suggest total mastery. Ode to the West Wind is Henze?s cello concerto, its five movements inspired by Shelley. A large orchestra is treated almost as chamber music, a few instruments at a time; there are a few ff outbursts, but much of the music is slow as well as gentle. This performance by Gustav Rivinius strikes me as being more sensitive, more in keeping with the music than that by Siegfried Palm with the Read more composer conducting on a 1968 Deutsch Grammophon recording, although Palm?s instrument has the fuller tone. The more transparent digital sound helps.

In 1956, Henze found a book of 17th-century Italian poems in a Naples bookstall. At the same time, he met Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who asked him to write a song cycle; before the year was out, the composer had written these Five Neapolitan Songs and the baritone had recorded them. The very full orchestral accompaniment applies a smooth Italian flavor to lines of love and death, yet some phrases and intervals are reminiscent of Benjamin Britten. In that monaural recording of half a century ago, Fischer-Dieskau made the songs his own, in his usual stunning dramatic fashion. Roland Hermann lavishes a potent warm baritone on the songs without quite matching the heightened drama of his predecessor. This recording warms and softens the accompaniments, pointing up some gorgeous wind-playing.

In Three Dithyrambs , Henze plays with what the program note-writer Dr. Barbara Dobretsberger calls ?three forms which at the time of composition (1958) had long since been a part of musical history.? The three movements are: 1. Sonata. 2. Invention. 3. Introduction, Passacaglia. The supposed forms are not much aid to the listener; one assumes they acted as spur for Henze to build his own constructs. Individual instruments stand out within a chamber orchestra, at times a piano, a solo, or small group of woodwinds, a French horn, a trumpet; the feeling is of another old form, a deliriously colored concerto grosso. The whole is an imaginative, expressive work, the so-called Passacaglia rising to an awesome final climax.

These are all excellently played performances, and comparisons with the previous recordings mentioned suggest that they do Henze?s music full justice. Recordings by the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony have been crossing my desk with amazing frequency lately, usually more than one per Fanfare deadline. These three performances come from 1999, 1988, and 1979 respectively, so it seems the orchestra is now sharing its archives rather than recording every day. All its recordings, from whatever year, under whatever conductor, have displayed a finely honed, disciplined ensemble, the equal of any European radio orchestra. Arte Nova, too, has been a frequent and a welcome presence in my CD player, consistently delivering interesting, superb sounding discs at a rock-bottom price.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Ode an den Westwind by Hans Werner Henze
Performer:  Gustav Rivinius (Cello)
Conductor:  Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; Germany 
Neapolitan Songs (5) by Hans Werner Henze
Performer:  Roland Hermann (Baritone)
Conductor:  Cristobal Halffter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; Germany 
Dithyrambs (3) by Hans Werner Henze
Conductor:  Günther Wich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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