Henze: Scorribanda sinfonica sopra la tomba di una maratona; Antifone; Piano Concerto No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Henze
LABELS: Wergo
WORKS: Scorribanda sinfonica sopra la tomba di una maratona; Antifone; Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Christopher Tainton (piano); NDR SO/Peter Ruzicka
CATALOGUE NO: WER 6657 2
Henze’s composing career now spans nearly 60 years, during which he’s poured out works with the fluency of a Telemann, in a bewildering variety of styles. This CD gives a taste of that amazing variety. It contains the early Piano Concerto from 1950, a fascinating ensemble piece from 1960 and a 2001 reworking of Henze’s ballet Maratona. The Piano Concerto is an over-heated grab-bag of all the influences pressing in on Henze in the late Forties – jazz, Stravinskian neo-classicism, but above all Schoenbergian Expressionism. The movements have balletic titles, and the soloist Christopher Tainton brings out the leaping, dancing aspect of the music with superb bravura. The orchestra is no less incisive and rhythmically alert. However, it took some time to realise this, as the poor recording is the first thing one notices. The level is so low I kept having to turn up the volume, the violins are boxy and distant, and the piano sounds depressingly anaemic. The later pieces seemed better, but I think that’s only because they’re so much better musically. Antifone has the kind of constructivist rigour that is all too rare in Henze’s music, and the new Scorribanda is a brilliant orchestral tone poem. Ivan Hewett

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