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Hans Werner Henze

Biography

Born: July 1, 1926; Gütersloh, Germany   Died: October 27, 2012; Dresden, Germany  
Hans Werner Henze was a prolific composer over a career spanning six decades, writing extensively in all the standard genres such as symphony, concerto, opera, and song, in a remarkable variety of styles. As he once said, "I am bored by the idea of employing approaches which I have already tried." At times in his career, his controversial political views have attracted almost as much attention as his music.

Henze started
Read more composing at age 12, even before his formal music education began at the Braunschweig State Music School, which he attended from 1942-1944. From an early age, he was interested in political and social issues. His rejection of the bourgeois values of his upbringing and the Nazism that he encountered first hand probably had a large influence on his later political thinking. He served for a time in the German army in World War II and was briefly held as a prisoner-of-war. After the war, he continued his musical studies at the Institute for Church Music in Heidelberg, where he worked with Wolfgang Fortner, and at Darmstadt, where he studied with Schoenberg disciple René Leibowitz. His earliest acknowledged compositions date from this time, like the Chamber Concerto (1946) which was Henze's first publicly performed work. His first full-length opera, Boulevard Solitude, was completed in 1951.

Despite the hints of jazz and neo-Classicism in some of that early music, Henze was strongly identified with the post-Arnold Schoenberg serial composers for several years. With his move to Italy in 1953, Henze sought to change that perception and brought to his music a new lyricism. One can hear this in his second opera, König Hirsch, premiered in 1956, and the Symphony No. 4, "Il Re Cervo" (1955), which makes use of music from that opera's second act finale. W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky's librettists for The Rake's Progress, provided the words for Henze's fourth and sixth operas, Elegy for Young Lovers (1961) and The Bassarids (1965-1966). It was around this time that Henze took his first teaching post, director of master classes in composition at the Salzburg Mozarteum.

The notorious premiere of the oratorio Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa, a requiem for Che Guevara) in Hamburg in 1968, at which the work's librettist and others were arrested, brought Henze further notoriety. Interactions with German students and Italian intellectuals had motivated Henze to bring to his work an increasing political consciousness. Socialism and the New Left were very appealing to him, even more so after a year of teaching in Cuba in 1969-70, during which he led the Cuban National Symphony in the premiere of his Symphony No. 6 for two chamber orchestras.

Voices (1973), a song cycle with texts by Ho Chi Minh, Bertold Brecht, and others, reflects Henze's political commitment and his musical eclecticism. In his later works, Henze has incorporated such disparate elements as rock and popular music, electronics, taped sounds, microtones, and extended vocal and instrumental techniques. His harrowing Symphony No. 9, premiered in 1997, tells the story of prisoners who escape from a German concentration camp; the Symphony is dedicated to "the heroes and martyrs of German anti-fascism."

Henze wrote for many of the great performers of his time, such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Peter Pears, Julian Bream, Heinz and Ursula Holliger, and Christoph Eschenbach. He also actively championed his own music, traveling the world to conduct and record his compositions. Read less
Browse 1-15 of 15 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Hans Werner Henze: The Complete Deutsche Grammophon Recordings [16-CD Set]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001873602 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 16
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Ursula Holliger,  Heinz Holliger,  Wolfgang Schneiderhan,  Siegfried Palm  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze,  Paul Sacher,  Ferenc Fricsay,  Richard Kraus  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Zurich Collegium Musicum  ... 
    CD: $143.99
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  • 2.
    Henze: El Cimarron / Henze, Pearson, Zoller, Brouwer
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001883802 Release Date: 08/20/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  William Pearson,  Karlheinz Zöller,  Leo Brouwer,  Stomu Yamash'ta
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    CD: $13.99
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  • 3.
    Beethoven: Piano Concertos 3 & 5 / Eschenbach, Henze, Ozawa
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94602 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze,  Seiji Ozawa
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 4.
    Christoph Eschenbach - The Early Recordings
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 9189 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Hans Werner Henze,  Frédéric Chopin,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Christoph Eschenbach
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze,  Seiji Ozawa
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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    CD: $34.99
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  • 5.
    Henze: Concerto For Violin, Etc / Henze, Schneiderhan, Et Al
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 2GC449-865 Release Date: 02/18/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Gary Karr,  Siegfried Palm,  Wolfgang Schneiderhan
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 6.
    Henze: Whispers From Heavenly Death, Etc / Henze, Moser
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449869 Release Date: 02/18/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Edda Moser,  Roy Hart
    Conductor:  Richard Kraus,  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 7.
    Henze: Compasses, Violin Concerto, Apollo Et Hyazinthus
    Label: London/Decca Enterprise   Catalog: 430347 Release Date: 06/25/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Hirofumi Fukai,  Brenton Langbein,  Anna Reynolds,  John Constable
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 8.
    Henze: Symphonies 1-6 / Henze, Berlin Phil, London Sym Orch
    Label: Dg 20th Century Classics   Catalog: 429854 Release Date: 04/18/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 9.
    Henze: Voices / London Sinfonietta, Et Al
    Label: Explore Records   Catalog: 7 Release Date: 06/27/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Sarah Walker,  Paul Sperry
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
    CD: $18.49
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  • 10.
    Henze: Cantata Della Fiaba Estrema, Etc / Henze, Et Al
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449870 Release Date: 06/03/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Cornelius Schwarz,  Berthold Rink,  Friedemann Jäckel,  Dieter Leffler  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Kreuz Choir,  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,  Dresden Staatskapelle  ... 
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  • 11.
    Henze: Das Floss Der Medusa / Henze, Moser, Fischer-dieskau
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449871 Release Date: 06/03/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Edda Moser,  Charles Regnier,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  St. Nicolai Boys Choir,  Berlin Radio Chamber Choir  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 12.
    Henze: El Cimarrón / Henze, Pearson, Zöller, Brouwer, Et Al
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449872 Release Date: 06/03/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  William Pearson,  Karlheinz Zöller,  Leo Brouwer,  Stomu Yamash'ta
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 13.
    Henze: Elegie Für Junge Liebende - Excerpts / Henze, Et Al
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449874 Release Date: 06/03/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Thomas Hemsley,  Loren Driscoll,  Liane Dubin,  Martha Mödl  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra members,  Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra members
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  • 14.
    Henze: Piano Concerto No 2, Tristan Preludes, Etc / Henze
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449866 Release Date: 06/03/1996   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  Christoph Eschenbach,  Homero Francesch,  Siegfried Behrend
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze,  Ferenc Fricsay
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 15.
    Henze: The Tedious Way To Natascha Ungeheuer's Apartment
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 449873 Release Date: 06/03/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Werner Henze
    Performer:  William Pearson,  Giuseppe Agostini,  Stomu Yamash'ta
    Conductor:  Hans Werner Henze
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble members,  Gunther Hampel Free Jazz Ensemble,  Fires of London
    ArkivCD $16.99
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