Saturday, October 27, 2012

RIP Hans Werner Henze (1926 - 2012)

Sad news this morning that Hans Werner Henze has died at the age of 86. This great, generous, versatile and often startling composer has touched indelibly the lives of everyone who knew him. Operas, ballets, symphonies, concertos, choral works, chamber music, politically engaged music - everything poured prolifically from his pen. He was mentor to numerous younger composers and his music has an unmistakeable voice, edgy, sometimes unsettling, always overflowing with vitality.

Boulezian has just published a heartfelt and thorough essay on the man and his music. Here is the tribute from his publisher, Schott's. And the BBC's news report. And an interview from December 2009 in which he talks to Tom Service.

I deeply regret that I never met Henze, but I'll never forget my introduction to his music at university, many moons ago. There, the eclectic and astounding Peter Zinovieff, who taught us "acoustics" (though his classes certainly weren't about how to build a concert hall), used to talk about Henze a great deal. Zinovieff, a pioneer of the synthesizer, was the dedicatee of his Tristan, the tape parts of which were created at Zinovieff's electronics studio. He played the last section of this work to us. Wagner; a child's voice; the heartbeat of (if I remember right) a dog. Most of us took a little while to recover!

Among the best-known of his works is Ondine, the atmospheric ballet score composed for Frederick Ashton to choreograph, and associated forever with Margot Fonteyn. Here it is by way of tribute, starring Fonteyn herself and Michael Somes.