Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012)
October 30, 2012
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze, who has died aged 86, was among the most prolific and successful of contemporary German composers. His systematic study of music only began after the war, with Wolfgang Fortner, and later with visits to Darmstadt and absorption of serial technique, to be used with great originality in a musical language that was also influenced by Stravinsky. In 1953 he left Germany because of a perceived intolerance of his political views and homosexuality, and moved to Italy, where he maintained a home base for most of his life. He gradually developed his leaning towards the political New Left, reflected in some of his music and choices of texts and themes. His festival activities at Montepulciano and his involvement with the Munich Biennale, among others, enabled him to exercise a strong influence on the course and promotion of contemporary music.
Henze is perhaps best known for his many successful operas and dramatic works ranging from Das Wundertheater premiered in 1947 to Gisela! or the Strange and Memorable Ways of Happiness, staged in 2010. Henze also wrote a series of ballets and incidental music for the cinema and the theatre.
An exceptionally wide range of orchestral music includes 10 symphonies, concertos for piano, for violin and, for Gary Karr, a double bass concerto, as well as a double concerto for oboe and harp for Heinz and Ursula Holliger. His chamber music output ranges from string quartets, to music for a variety of ensembles, including sonatas for violin, for viola and for flute and piano. He also wrote works for various solo instruments, for violin, double bass, cello, marimba, harpsichord, trumpet, and solo guitar.
Vocal and choral music by Henze is equally varied and remarkable, including the enchanting Five Neapolitan Songs written for Fischer-Dieskau Novae de infinito laudes (New Praises of the Infinite), the Virgilian Muses of Sicily and the controversial Das Floss der ‘Medusa’ (The Raft of the Medusa).
His autobiography, Bohemian Fifths, was published by Stewart Spencer in November 1998.
Hans Werner Henze Biography & Discography