Notes and Editorial Reviews
Apollo et Hyazinthus
Jorg-Peter Mittmann, cond;
Clemens C. Löschmann (ten);
Maxmilian Mangold (gtr);
Nicole Pieper (alt);
Jan Croonenbroek (hpd); Ens Horizonate
WERGO 6746 2 (73:49
This program of Henze chamber music arrived just as his death was announced: October 27, 2012, at age 86. Wergo, the label of his publisher Schott, continues to work its way through his oeuvre. The full title of the first piece is (in my dubious translation):
Chamber Music 1958, on the hymn “In Lovely Blueness” of Friedrich Hölderlin for tenor, guitar, and eight soloists
. By including the date in the title, the composer stressed his challenge to the dominant serialists of the day by (in conductor Jorg-Peter Mittmann’s words) “the affirmation of motivic development, reference to tradition, and the cultivation of Romantic expressive gestures.” Loud angry debates followed the premiere, in the press and in public, but Henze’s way was soon accepted, and the serialists’ domination began to decline.
, dedicated to Benjamin Britten, is a gentle, lovely work, the farthest thing imaginable from any revolution. Its 49 minutes include 13 movements, written for various combinations, several groups of which have come to be performed on their own, with new titles. The guitar is joined by the eight solo instruments of Schubert’s Octet (clarinet, horn, bassoon, string quartet, and double bass). The tenor role—written for Peter Pears, who sang the premiere—is mostly
, with an extraordinarily high tessitura. Hölderlin’s writings, once considered the ravings of a madman, appear in Wergo’s booklet only in German. The music is Henze at his most beautiful, and this performance by tenor Clemens C. Löschmann is exquisite. There have been other recordings, including one by Henze and tenor Philip Langridge on an LP, but they are now rare and expensive.
Apollo et Hyazinthus
, written in 1948 and 1949, bears many similarities to
. Scored for harpsichord, alto voice, and eight solo instruments (flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and string quartet),
too dwells at the lower end of the dynamic scale. It is primarily an instrumental piece—Henze has called it his Harpsichord Concerto—the voice entering more than three quarters of the way through. It is, however, serial music based on a single tone row, dedicated to René Leibowitz, with whom Henze had studied Schoenberg’s
Variations for Orchestra
at Darmstadt. “There was no longer any doubt in my mind: serial technique was the logical extension of western music . . . It allows us to discover new connections . . . to create new concepts of freedom and beauty” (Henze:
Bohemian Fifths: An Autobiography
). It was a technique that Henze repudiated a decade later but would return to later in his life. Even when writing 12-tone music, he finds ways to be sweet and gentle, and alto Nicole Pieper matches Löschmann’s performance in suavity and grace. The composer’s own 1973 Decca recording with the London Sinfonietta benefits from cleaner playing and brighter sound, and its CD reissue, London 430 347-2, contains a translation of Austrian expressionist poet Georg Trakl’s wistful poem; yet its directness sacrifices much of the subtlety of the piece.
, for seven instruments (1982) backs a solo oboe—beautifully played by Maestro Mittmann—with piano, harp, three violas, and cello. As the title suggests, it recalls and reflects upon music of the distant past. There must have been other recordings of this brief (6:40) work, but I haven’t encountered any and cannot imagine a more winning performance. This wonderful disc is recommended to all serious listeners.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Apollo et Hyazinthus by Hans Werner Henze
Clemens Löschmann (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1948; Germany
Canzona by Hans Werner Henze
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