Marek Janowski / Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra

Hans Werner Henze: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 10

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With this 2014 Wergo release, Marek Janowski and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra complete their cycle of the ten symphonies of Hans Werner Henze, one of Germany's leading composers of the post-WWII era. The Symphony No. 2 (1949) was Henze's first major twelve-tone composition for orchestra, and it was unusual for its time, insofar as the symphonic genre was largely ignored by the avant-garde, and this quintessentially tonal form was deemed antithetical to rigorous serial practice. Yet Henze's cogent themes and dramatic sensibility shaped this music into a powerful essay that is quite comparable to the symphonies of Shostakovich in its brooding energy and menacing echoes of martial music. The Symphony No. 10 (2000) turned out to be a memorial to Henze's friend, Paul Sacher, who first suggested commissioning it in 1977, and a tribute to Simon Rattle, who also asked Henze to write it. The music is cast in four movements with succinctly descriptive titles, though the storm, hymn, dance, and dream they suggest are utterly abstract and open to interpretation. While the playing is clear and apparently accurate, the recording seems unfocused and a bit murky, depending on which instruments were closest to the microphones.

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