WFIU’s Featured Contemporary Composer: Hans Werner Henze

Hans Werner Henze: WFIU's featured contemporary composer for October.

WFIU’s contemporary composer for the month of October is Hans Werner Henze.

Born in Germany in 1926, Henze is the composer of a prodigious output of music influenced by serialism, atonality, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz, as well as traditional schools of German composition.

Early in his career, Henze’s fascination with the music of Mozart and his contemporaries was reflected in his Symphony No. 1, written in 1947, and a concerto grosso for piano, flute, and strings. Through his later composition lessons with Wolfgang Fortner, Henze discovered the music of Stravinsky, Bartok, and Berg.

Metaphors for dance appear in Henze’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in his use of the pas de deux, and he also wrote many pieces for the ballet stage. He experimented with integrating jazz and 19th century Romanticism in works such as Maratona di danza and Undine. His operas include Elegy for Young Lovers and Der junge Lord.

In the 1960s, Henze became more involved in politics, which influenced his musical work. The premiere of his oratorio Das Floss der Medusa in Hamburg failed when his West Berlin collaborators refused to perform under a portrait of Che Guevara. This period of politically inspired writings culminated in Voices, a collection of songs for mezzo-soprano and tenor in German, English, Italian, and Spanish. The songs blend exotic folksong elements, protest songs, standard dances, marches, light opera, cabaret, and classical music.

Henze’s musical language eventually arrived at a sensuous lyricism, reminiscent perhaps of the relaxed environment of Italy, which has been his home since 1953. Now in his mid-eighties, he continues to compose and revise earlier works.

WFIU will feature music composed by Hans Werner Henze throughout the month of October.

Anna Pranger

Anna Pranger moved to Bloomington in 2009 to pursue a degree in music librarianship. Before this, she worked on a degree in music history at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio. She serves as both an assistant producer for Harmonia and the Music Library Assistant for WFIU.

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