Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hans Werner Henze

The German composer died the other day at the age of 86, productive until near the end.  Listen again to Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa), that tells the story behind the painting by Géricault.  Forget about the inflamed politics of its first performances in the ‘60s, just listen to the music and follow the haunting text, with its quotations from Dante.  Imagine the singers drifting across the stage, from the world of the living to the world of the dead.  Let this artist hand off his dream to you.


Barkley Rosser said...

While Henze quite good, that he was the best Germany could produce for classical composition in the post-WW II era is a sign of how Germany has fallen since the 18th and 19th centuries when it was so dominant in that area.

Peter Dorman said...

That's one way to look at it, although (1) Germany's (including Austria's?) earlier dominance was at least partly a product of whether one accepts the criteria of German music to judge composers from other countries, and (2) it was unavoidable that music of all forms would disseminate to ever wider geographical circles. Henze's greatest contemporaries were Polish, Hungarian, French, etc. Today you have to add Finland, Japan and of course the US. And other kinds of music tell the same story. Every decade, US-born jazz musicians make up an ever smaller share of the top performers; rock is everywhere. For most of us this is not a problem at all. I suppose singers must struggle with all the languages they should know these days.