Markus Stenz

Hans Werner Henze: Symphonie No. 8; Nachtstücke und Arian; Die Bassariden

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Why there has not been a recording of Hans Werner Henze's 1993 Eighth Symphony before this 2004 recording is anyone's guess. The work is a masterfully scored, brilliantly evocative, and astoundingly beautiful three-movement piece based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. And yet this performance with Markus Stenz leading the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln is its first and only recording. Thankfully, it is an outstanding release in every way. Stenz clearly understands Henze's skillful blending of expressive lyricism and almost but not quiet atonal harmonies, and he forges them into a cogent and compelling whole. The highly polished and tremendously virtuosic Gürzenich-Orchester Köln plays Henze's demanding music with ease and there's no question of its dedication. Generously coupled with only the second recording of his Nachtstücke und Arien (here with soprano Claudia Barainsky) and the first recording of the orchestral suite from his opera Die Bassariden, this disc ought to be mandatory listening for anyone interested in postwar European music. Phoenix Edition's digital sound is clean, but too recessed to let all the details of the scores come through.

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