|Composer of the Month
In July, Naxos released its recording of Roy Harris’s Symphonies 3 and 4, part of a complete cycle of the composer’s symphonies..
Roy HARRIS: Symphony No. 3 and No. 4, “Folk Song Symphony”
Colorado Symphony and Chorus, Marin Alsop
CD of the Month
Toru TAKEMITSU: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden, etc.
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop
Roy Harris: Symphonies 3 and 4
John Tavener: Lament for Jerusalem
Classical Music Spotlight presents a special interview with Maestro Leonard Slatkin
William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Friday, July 28, 2006
Henze-rama: Violin Concertos, Opera, and Guitar Music from a Composer at 80
With little public fanfare, Hans Werner Henze turned 80 on July 1st. The composer, a German who has resided in Italy since 1953, is one of the true "grand old men" of contemporary music, yet he has received scant attention of late in the US (the last performance of note was a January 2004 premiere of his Tenth Symphony by the Philadelphia Orchestra). As a result, it's easy to forget just how colorful, evocative, and powerful his music can be.
Naxos' new recording of Henze's Violin Concertos 1 and 3 is a reminder of the career of this important composer. The First Concerto, written in 1946, is one of Henze's first works. Henze described its composition as "a feverish struggle against my own inadequecies." The piece shows few signs of this torturous creative process and reveals an early ability to create engaging orchestral colors as well as real control over the genre.
Violin Concerto 3, composed fifty years after the First, contains three movements with titles drawn from Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus, the 1947 novel about a fictional composer, Adrian Leverkuehn. Violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved and the Saarbruecken Radio Symphony Orchestra with Christopher Lyndon-Gee, who have also recorded George Rochberg's Violin Concerto for Naxos, provide impressive performances of both concertos. Five Night-Pieces (1990), a work that Henze wrote for Sheppard Skaerved and pianist Aaron Schorr, rounds out the disc.
A strking recent opera L'Upupa (2003), which Henze says is his last, is now available on DVD from EuroArts. This production from the 2003 Salburg Festival is vividly staged, matching the striking music. Matthias Goerne stars as the "good son" sent, along with his brethren, to find his sick father's lost magical hoopoe bird. (A clip is available at http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=2053929.)
Henze has also composed an impressive amount of guitar music and in April Naxos released the first volume in a series featuring the composer's works for the instrument. Performed by Franz Halasz, the CD includes his Second Sonata "On Shakespearean Characters," a piece from 1978-1979 that Julian Bream encouraged him to write. Henze's guitar music is as intimate as his concertos and operas are grand, enjoyable on an entirely different level.