Henze: Requiem

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COMPOSERS: Henze
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: Ueli Wiget (piano), Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)Ensemble Modern/Ingo Metzmacher
CATALOGUE NO: SK 58972 DDD
Those of us who heard, and were impressed by, Hans Werner Henze’s Requiem at last year’s BBC Prom have waited eagerly for a recording of this extraordinary work. Though a Requiem in name (and intention), with movement titles from the Requiem Mass, Henze declines to set the text of the Mass – there is no choir – preferring instead a wholly instrumental work. The piece is subtitled ‘Nine Sacred Concertos’, recalling 17th-century models, and is unusually scored for piano solo, trumpet concertante and a chamber orchestra of special timbres: saxophone, celesta, harp, alto flute, contrabass clarinet and Wagnerian brass instruments – bass trumpet and contrabass trombone – are added to the expected strings and wind.

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Henze, an atheist, reinterprets the Mass so that his instrumental numbers ‘tell of the fears and afflictions of people of our own time’. The ‘Rex tremendae’, which features Håkan Hardenberger’s virtuosic solo trumpet in aggressive mood, evokes a recent brutality – Henze deplored US military tactics in the Gulf War – but also quotes the Badenweiler March, Hitler’s favourite. This thundering section is movingly followed by a desolate Agnus Dei for strings and piano alone. The solo trumpet does speak lyrically in the ‘Lacrimosa’, but the real commentary comes from Ueli Wiget’s eloquently portrayed piano line. The C major chord reverberating at the end affirms Henze’s belief in ‘the world that must not be destroyed’. Deborah Calland