Often described as one of Europe's foremost living composers, Hans Werner Henze could perhaps more accurately be described as Europe's greatest living composer. Born in 1926, Henze's career spans sixty years, his style encompasses everything from neo-classicism to post-modernism, his works include everything from grand operas to intimate quartets, and his music embraces everything from ecstatic lyricism to agonizing expressionism. In this disc devoted to his music for guitar, Henze's intimate, lyrical, neo-classical side is brilliantly on display from the achingly lovely Drei Tentos (Three Attempts) and Drei Fragmente nach Hölderlin (Three Fragments from Hölderlin) both from 1958 through the intensely dramatic Royal Winter Music from 1979 to the wildly eclectic Selbst- und Zweigespräche (Monologues and Dialogues) from 1985 and Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge (New Folk Songs and Shepherd's Melodies) from 1986.
"Hans Werner Henze has written three violin concertos so far, separated in his output by gaps of 23 and 26 years. As you'd expect, they are very different pieces stylistically, and hearing them in succession provides a revealing map of the trajectory Henze's evolution has followed in his orchestral music. However, it's the two most widely separated works here that have the most similarities, suggesting how, in some important respects over the last half-century, he has come full circle. (…) The result is arguably one of the strongest of Henze's works from the 1970s; certainly that is how it seems in this very impressively controlled performance from Torsten Janicke and the Magdeburg Philharmonic." ~The Guardian
If any admirers of the great German late-modernist composer Hans Werner Henze missed the performances on these two discs when they were first released in 1992 and 1997, they should by all means try this EMI set. The first disc features Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performing Henze's magnificently tragic Barcarola and his dramatic Symphony No. 7. Rattle brings both manic energy and iron control to the music and the Birmingham musicians respond with the kind of expressive fervor usually reserved for Mahler or Bruckner. And the second disc …..James Leonard @ AllMusic
Hans Werner Henze has been a prolific composer over a career spanning six decades, writing extensively in all the standard genres such as symphony, concerto, opera, and song, in a remarkable variety of styles. As he has said, "I am bored by the idea of employing approaches which I have already tried." At times in his career, his controversial political views have attracted almost as much attention as his music.