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Hans Werner Henze: Royal Winter Music

Henze / Simpson
Release Date: 09/11/2012 
Label:  Soundset   Catalog #: 1042   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Hans W. Henze
Performer:  Elliot Simpson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HENZE Royal Winter Music Eliot Simpson (gtr) SOUNDSET SR1042 (65:04)

Royal Winter Music consists of two “Sonatas on Shakespearean Characters.” The first sonata was written for, and in consultation with, Julian Bream in 1975 and 1976. Its six movements portray Gloucester, Romeo and Juliet, Ariel, Ophelia, and Touchstone, Audrey and William, and Oberon. Henze’s “attachment to Shakespearean characters” caused him to write a second sonata in 1979 (Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Read more Bottom’s Dream, Mad Lady Macbeth), “which has to manage without the dialectic form of a sonata.” The German composer is as much of a wordsmith as he is tunesmith, making one suspect a touch of the blarney in his genes. The music has no suggestion of the avant-garde and does not require any unusual performance techniques, merely imagination and stamina.

I am anything but a guitar buff, which has made accepting Winter Music a slow ascent, but its popularity is indicated by at least nine complete recordings, several of which I have reviewed (I’m not sure that Fanfare ’s online Archive is as yet a seamless continuum with the printed annual Fanfare Index , which ceased in 2004). Nor am I conversant with the guitar literature, but the existence of a serious, hour-long contemporary work must be viewed by instrumentalists as a challenge to be conquered.

Eliot Simpson’s performance is more leisurely—in every movement—than that by David Tanenbaum ( Fanfare 29:6), a total of more than nine minutes longer. This Soundset recording has more air about it, and more reverberation, than Tanenbaum’s Stradivarius one. These factors add up to a very poetic reading. Tanenbaum can be more dramatic at moments, but neither performance strongly suggests the Shakespearean characters to this listener, even though I perused some of the plays again to renew familiarity. For the first time, I am enjoying this music. This may be a superficial reaction to Henze’s music, to the guitar, and to the performances, but it’s the best I can offer you.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Royal Winter Music (Sonata No.1), for guitar by Hans W. Henze
Performer:  Elliot Simpson (Guitar)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1975-1976 
Venue:  Lille Konsertsal, University of Stavange 
Length: 40 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Royal Winter Music (Sonata No.2), for guitar by Hans W. Henze
Performer:  Elliot Simpson (Guitar)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1979; Germany 
Venue:  Lille Konsertsal, University of Stavange 
Length: 24 Minutes 6 Secs. 

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