Hans Werner Henze: Memoirs of an Outsider

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COMPOSERS: Henze
LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: Documentary; plus Henze: Requiem
PERFORMER: Ueli Wiget (piano), Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet); Ensemble Modern/Ingo Metzmacher, etc
CATALOGUE NO: 100 360

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Barrie Gavin’s well-rounded portrait, made for Hans Werner Henze’s 75th birthday in 2001, takes up well over half of this DVD, and contains a generous amount of music. It’s not entirely free from the ‘pictures-until-ready’ feeling that inevitably accompanies music in documentaries (will anyone ever be bold enough to show a blank screen when all your concentration should be focused in your ears?), but there is welcome footage of actual performance as well as material from the archives, and the other images are cut with a sure sense of musical pace.

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Contributions from Simon Rattle, Oliver Knussen and Markus Stenz emphasise the lyrical proliferation of the music: in Rattle’s words, it’s like a big tree – ‘You can’t see each of the individual leaves, but you would know if they weren’t there.’ Henze himself talks about his childhood in Nazi Germany, and his need to get away from the country later in life, as well as his ostracism by the post-war avant-garde for failing to subscribe to their dogmas. ‘Art is concerned first and foremost with truth,’ he says, and that’s borne out in the Requiem, one of his finest works from the early Nineties, which contains beauty, drama, tenderness and virtuosity in equal measure – all superbly realised by the performers here. Martin Cotton