Henze: Being beauteous; Kammermusik 1958

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COMPOSERS: Henze
LABELS: Wergo
ALBUM TITLE: Henze
WORKS: Being beauteous; Kammermusik 1958*
PERFORMER: Anna Prohaska (soprano), *Peter Gijsbertsen (tenor), Sophia Whitson (harp), *Jürgen Ruck (guitar), Andreas Grünkorn, Fabian Diederichs, Katharina Kühl, Valentin Priebus (cello); NDR Sinfonieorchester/ Peter Ruzicka
CATALOGUE NO: WER 7334 2

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A gorgeously alluring disc. These two profoundly lyrical vocal masterpieces by Hans Werner Henze share a mesmerising, often delicate intimacy. The title of Kammermusik 1958 may suggest something dryly abstract, but this setting of Hölderlin’s In lieblicher blaue spans the emotional spectrum just as much as any work by its dedicatee, Britten, who sparked Henze’s interest in English Renaissance music. Hölderlin’s poem is set for tenor, specifically Peter Pears for the premiere, solo guitar and small ensemble, the text being split into six verses, each paired with a purely instrumental movement. Peter Gijsbertsen’s wonderfully clear tenor voice is ideal (someone should book him for the Britten cycles), while Jürgen Ruck has wonderful timbral variety in the lute-inspired guitar part written for Julian Bream.

Henze added an epilogue to the work in 1963, the same year as he wrote Being beauteous. The latter, a setting of Rimbaud’s poem from the collection Les Illuminations, floats a coloratura soprano, in this case the exquisite and seemingly effortlessly-controlled Anna Prohaska, above harp and four cellos. While there are frenetic moments, the overall impression is of luminescent, rapt stillness, superbly paced, like Kammermusik 1958, by the conductor Peter Ruzicka. These outstanding performances are, in a word, beauteous.

Christopher Dingle

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording.