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Henze: Scorribanda Sinfonica Sopra La Tomba Di Una Maratona

Release Date: 10/14/2003 
Label:  Wergo   Catalog #: 6657   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
Performer:  Christopher Tainton
Conductor:  Peter Ruzicka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 51 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

When it comes to modern music of the German school, two winners out of three isn't bad at all. Henze's Scorribanda sinfonica derives its thematic material from a theater piece describing a fatal Roman dance competition, and so in this arrangement it becomes a kind of post-apocalyptic gloss on Ravel's La Valse, which it resembles in several respects. Both works emphasize distorted parodies of dance rhythms and rise to insane climaxes, though Henze adds a brief quiet coda after the hysteria suddenly breaks off. He's also more interested in tossing in bits of popular dances and jazz, and the result is a sort of Schnittkean phantasmagoria, voluptuously scored, that's very colorful and tremendous fun.

The First Piano
Read more Concerto similarly invokes the dance, being organized in three movements respectively entitled "Entrée", "Pas de deux", and "Coda". Though avowedly written under the influence of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto, Henze's piece is at once more tonally oriented and wilder, with the central slow movement rising to a couple of hugely passionate climaxes and the extremely imaginative ending making clever play with the traditional sonata-style concerto windup. It's quite wonderfully played by Christopher Tainton, who flings himself at the keyboard with the emotional abandon that Henze requires, though his piano sounds a touch thin and recessed as recorded here.

The odd man out is Antifone, one of those "total serial" squeak-bloop things that Henze (and so many other contemporary composers) produce now and then just to prove that they can. Even so, it's imaginatively scored for 11 solo strings, winds, and percussion and contains more than a few moments of strikingly sensual instrumental color as it squeaks and bloops along to its inevitably screechy, inconclusive, post-Modern close. Like all of the pieces here it's extremely well played and given sonics of great clarity and presence by the North German Radio engineers.

For a composer of his stature, surprisingly few of Henze's orchestral works seem to stay long in the catalog, a reflection perhaps of the gap between his public and professional reputations. Still, as an enormously gifted composer with an appealingly "synthetic" style, he deserves attention beyond the avant-garde, particularly since much of his music is certainly enjoyable on first hearing. Perhaps, as in Antifone, he sometimes tries a little too hard--Henze is nothing if not self-conscious of his place in history--but if this is a fault, it's certainly one in the right direction. Coming out on a label that's a division of Schott, Henze's publisher, means that this Wergo release should stay in print--but that doesn't mean that today's penny-pinching stores will stock it for long, so get it while it's fresh. There's some really fine music here.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Scorribanda sinfonica sopra la tomba di una maratona by Hans Werner Henze
Conductor:  Peter Ruzicka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; Germany 
Antifone by Hans Werner Henze
Conductor:  Peter Ruzicka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; Germany 
Concerto for Piano no 1 by Hans Werner Henze
Performer:  Christopher Tainton (Piano)
Conductor:  Peter Ruzicka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; Germany 

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