Ensemble Dissonanzen

Hans Werner Henze: Musica da Camera

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One of the hallmarks of Hans Werner Henze's music is the ingenuity of his orchestration. From his chamber music to his operas, he uses apparently eccentric combinations of instruments to achieve effects of a timbral delicacy and transparency that mitigate the harmonic complexity and melodic spikiness of the music and give it an immediate sonic appeal. This CD includes works that beautifully illustrate the principle. The newest piece, Ein kleines Potpourri aus der Oper "Boulevard Solitude," dates from 2000, but the opera from which it's derived is was one of his earliest, written half a century earlier. The opera contains some of his brashest and densest music, but his reworking of selections from it, scored for the remarkable ensemble of flute, vibraphone, harp, and piano, is a model of exquisite delicacy. It's one of the most charming and accessible pieces of (essentially) atonal twenty first century chamber music one is likely to encounter. The 1974 Carillon, Récitativ, Masque, for mandolin, guitar, and harp, is also timbrally distinctive. It was commissioned to accompany a promotional film for the island of Granada, and it's a little difficult to reconcile the composer's advanced musical language with images of sandy beaches lapped by gentle azure waves, but it's fully engaging as a piece of abstract music. Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge (1983, revised in 1996), for bassoon, guitar, and string trio, is a lively and colorful collection of short movements whose only discernible link to folk music is in the rhythms, but which is immediately appealing in its directness. The CD includes a variety of other, more conventionally scored chamber works, starting with the composer's first mature work, a Sonatina for flute and piano written in 1947. The pieces are stylistically varied and unfailingly intriguing and make a strong case for Henze being ranked among the premiere composers of chamber music of his era. Ensemble Dissonanzen plays with all the finesse, commitment, understanding, and fierceness the works require. Mode's sound is clean and clear, with both good blend and a strong sense of definition, essential elements in music of this timbral sophistication.

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