Ensemble Recherche

Hans Werner Henze: Hommages

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The title of this album has a double meaning; Henze wrote many of these works as gifts to, or in honor of friends, and Ensemble Recherche created the CD as an homage to the composer, whose chamber music is not especially well represented on discs. Eleven out of twelve of these works are recorded here for the first time, and many have never been published. (It says something about a composer's productivity when he has written over 70 chamber works, and chamber music is considered a very minor part of his output.) These pieces, written between 1977 and 1998, are characteristic of Henze's mature style, a curious amalgamation of densely chromatic, spiky modernism and rhythmic complexity leavened by a strong lyrical impulse. That makes his works for solo instruments, where a single melodic line is more likely to be songlike, the most immediately accessible pieces, particularly Epitaph in Memory of Paul Dessau for cello, Epitaph for Yehudi Menuhin for violin, and An Brenton for viola, which are elegiac and understated. The Trio in drei Sätzen for strings, the most substantial piece on the disc, has a strong dramatic profile and is rewarding for attentive listeners. The densely contrapuntal Sonate für sechs Spieler, which opens the album, is probably the most daunting work. Adagio, adagio, serenade für violine, violoncello und klavier, a study for the composer's Eighth Symphony, which is based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, is an exceptionally lovely piece; it's easy to hear Shakespeare's enchanted images expressed in the music. Ensemble Recherche performs with precision and vitality, but also with the coolness that Henze's music frequently demands. Wergo's sound is clean, clear, and present.

blue highlight denotes track pick