Jan Philip Schulze

Hans Werner Henze: Piano Works

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins

"Composing without a piano nearby is like a hotel room without a toilet," is Henze's eloquent testimony to the piano's centrality in his life, but music for solo piano has not been a large part of his output. This disc collects a variety of pieces dating from his early twenties to his mid-seventies. What is perhaps most surprising is how much musical continuity it's possible to trace over the course of over 50 years, which is certainly not the case with his idiomatically varied operas and orchestral music. The sole exception is the neo-Classical Sonatina, written when Henze was 21. Variationen für Klavier, written the following year, displays the attributes that remain largely in place in his subsequent piano music -- a largely atonal harmonic language, an intense emotional expressivity, and a textural delicacy. The elegant and elegiac Lucy Escott Variations, based on a theme by Bellini, is among the composer's most popular short works. Henze is fond of revisiting major myths -- he has written a number of works related to the Orpheus legend -- and Präludien zu "Tristan" is his second major work on the subject, the first being his monumental Tristan for orchestra, piano, and tape. The Tristan preludes are not immediately recognizable as related to their subject, but the four expressionistic movements are attractive and fully developed as abstract music, independent of any literary associations. The recording, made under the composer's supervision, features pianist Jan Philip Schulze, whose fully convincing readings find the lyricism that lies under the spikiness of the music's surface. Col Legno's sound is clean and present.

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