Personalities | Hans Werner Henze | Contemporary | Classical
(Hans Vâr’-ner Hent’-se) 1926–2012
Henze’s musical education was interrupted by the Second World War, but after the conflict ended, he took composition lessons with Wolfgang Fortner and René Leibowitz. Those studies introduced him to Schoenberg’s 12-note technique, which he continued to employ to his own ends; but it was Stravinsky who exerted the strongest influence on works such as his first major operatic success, Boulevard Solitude (1952). From that point Henze was able to sustain himself almost entirely by writing to commission. The ballet Undine (1958, choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton and danced by Margot Fonteyn) was commissioned by the Royal Ballet, and the Fifth Symphony (1962) by the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein. The Sixth Symphony, which quotes Cuban revolutionary songs, belongs to the period of Henze’s most overt socialist commitment, which brought him into conflict with the musical establishment. His later collaborations with the left-wing English poet Edward Bond, such as the opera The English Cat (1983), allowed him to voice those convictions less controversially through the medium of satire. Henze returned to symphonic writing in the early 1980s with his Seventh (1983–84); his final symphony, the Tenth, was completed in 2000 and his final full-length opera, L’Upupa und der Triumph der Sohnesliebe (‘The Hoopoe and the Triumph of Filial Love’), in 2003.
Hans Werner Henze: the Complete Deutsche Grammophon Recordings, various artists (Deutsche Grammophon)
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