Radio operas (i.e., music dramas composed specifically for broadcasts, without stage actions or visuals of any kind) appealed to Hans Werner Henze as a challenge to his imagination, and proved to be a practical format for his complex, nightmarish musical settings of Franz Kafka's surrealistic story "Ein Landarzt" (A Country Doctor, 1951) and Wolfgang Hildesheimer's bizarre libretto Das Ende einer Welt (The End of a World, 1953). Echo effects, reversed and double-speed tapes, sound collages, and musique concrète are some of the "set dressings" that Henze uses to establish his eerie scenes and to surround his disoriented characters, who sing in a stylized manner similar to the expressionistic sprechstimme of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Interestingly, the compact disc is well-suited to Henze's elaborate, experimental Rundfunkopern: Wergo's stunningly clear digital recording reproduces the operas' otherworldly effects quite convincingly, without uncomfortably close microphone placement, sound compression, or artificial boosting. This 2005 release is the first recording of Henze's revised versions (1993-1994), and the performances by the composer, the six-member cast, and the WDR Symphony Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Markus Stenz, are edgy and neurotically charged. These important recordings are highly recommended for fearless listeners, but those who dislike avant-garde opera will find them abrasive, bewildering, and somewhat disturbing.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Ein Landarzt, radio opera (later revised for stage)|
|Das Ende einer Welt, radio opera (later revised for stage)|