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Kammermusik 1958; Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge
Andrew Staples (tenor), Markus Weidmann (bassoon), Jürgen Ruck (guitar); Scharoun Ensemble Berlin/Daniel Harding
Titles can be misleading. Part song cycle, part chamber concerto, and part series of quasi-lute reflections, Henze’s masterly Kammermusik 1958 is a beatific setting of Hölderlin’s In lieblicher Bläue for tenor, guitar and small ensemble. Dedicated to Britten, who first stirred Henze’s fascination with English Renaissance music, and written for Peter Pears and Julian Bream, the cycle intersperses the poem’s verses with purely instrumental movements.
Tenor Andrew Staples sings Hölderlin’s text with controlled intensity and a clarity of nuance while, from the horn’s opening echo of Britten’s Serenade, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin plays with the kind of confidence that comes from a long association with both the work and the composer. Indeed, it feels churlish to note that the overall sound of these otherwise magical performances is not quite as alluring as on the stunning recent version from Peter Gijsbertsen (Wergo). Guitarist Jürgen Ruck’s broad timbral palette graces both discs, and also features in the Scharoun’s curtain-raiser, the Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge. These originated in Henze’s 1983 incidental music for Höllmüller’s play Oedipus the Tyrant. Markus Weidmann’s bassoon sings characterfully, an evocative substitute for the voice seemingly implied by the title of these charming folksongs and pastorals.