Boris Blacher Ensemble / Friedrich Goldmann / Sabine Oehring

Hans Werner Henze: Royal Winter Music II; Carillon, Récitatif, Masque; An eine Äolsharfe

(CD - NCA #60227)

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Hans Werner Henze has written in virtually every standard musical form, but his chamber music is generally not among his best-known work. The composer is especially fond of the guitar and has included it in a number of his scores. This album, originally released in 1995, includes three pieces written between 1974 and 1986 that prominently feature the guitar, and one, Royal Winter Music II: Second Sonata on Shakespearean Characters, is for solo guitar. Each of its three movements is, in the most literal sense, a character piece, a musical depiction of Andrew Aguecheek from Twelfth Night, Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Lady Macbeth. Carillon, Récitatif, Masque is scored for guitar, mandolin, and harp, an exceptionally delicate grouping. It's one of the composer's most attractive scores for chamber ensemble, laced with lovely, transparent filigrees created by the subtle interplay of the plucked string instruments. An eine Äolsharfe has a similar effect even though it uses 15 instruments in addition to guitar. One of Henze's most striking gifts is his ability to create memorably distinctive textures and they are on full display in this mesmerizing piece, whose overlapping phrases create an unfolding array of gorgeous dream-like timbres. Guitarist Sabine Oehring and the members of the Boris Blacher Ensemble, led by Friedrich Goldmann, play with refinement and scrupulous attention to details of articulation and balance. There isn't a surfeit of passion apparent in the performances, but that is certainly due in part to the character of the music itself, which in spite of its sensuous textures tends to convey a mood of detached coolness. The sound is clean and crisp.

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