Hans Werner Henze

Hans Werner Henze (1 July 1926 – 27 October 2012) was a German composer. His large oeuvre of works is extremely varied in style, having been influenced by serialism, atonality, Stravinsky, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz, as well as traditional schools of German composition. In particular, his stage works reflect "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life".[1]

Henze was also known for his political convictions. He left Germany for Italy in 1953 because of a perceived intolerance towards his leftist politics and homosexuality. Late in life he lived in the village of Marino in the central Italian region of Lazio, and in his final years still travelled extensively, in particular to Britain and Germany, as part of his work. An avowed Marxist and member of the Italian Communist Party, Henze produced compositions honoring Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. At the 1968 Hamburg premiere of his requiem for Che Guevara, titled Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa), the placing of a red flag on the stage sparked a riot and the arrest of several people, including the librettist. Henze spent a year from 1969 to 1970 teaching in Cuba.

Hans Werner Henze
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F008277-0008, Köln, Schloss Brühl, Meisterkurse Musik
Henze in 1960
Born1 July 1926
Gütersloh, Germany
Died27 October 2012 (aged 86)
Dresden, Germany
EducationHeidelberg University
OccupationClassical composer

Life and works

Early years

Henze was born in Gütersloh, Westphalia, the eldest of six children of a teacher, and showed early interest in art and music. That and his political views led to conflict with his conservative father. Henze's father, Franz, had served in the First World War and was wounded at Verdun. He worked as a teacher in a school at Bielefeld, formed on progressive lines, but it was closed in 1933 by government order because its progressive style was out of step with official views. Franz Henze then moved to Dünne, a small village near Bünde, where he fell under the spell of Nazi propaganda. Books by Jewish and Christian authors were replaced in the Henze household by literature reflecting Nazi views; the whole family was expected to fall into line with Franz's new thinking. The older boys, including Hans, were enrolled in the Hitler Youth.

Although the Henze household was filled with talk of current affairs, Hans was also able to hear broadcasts of classical music (especially Mozart) and eventually his father realized that his son had a vocation as a musician. Henze began studies at the state music school of Braunschweig in 1942, where he studied piano, percussion, and theory. Franz Henze rejoined the army in 1943 and he was sent to the Eastern front, where he died. Henze had to break off his studies after being conscripted into the army in 1944, towards the end of the Second World War. He was trained as a radio officer. He was soon captured by the British and held in a prisoner-of-war camp for the remainder of the war. In 1945 he became an accompanist in the Bielefeld City Theatre, and continued his studies under Wolfgang Fortner at Heidelberg University in 1946.

Henze had some successful performances at Darmstadt, including an immediate success in 1946 with a neo-baroque work for piano, flute and strings, that brought him to the attention of Schott's, the music publishers. He also took part in the famous Darmstadt New Music Summer School, a key vehicle for the propagation of avant-garde techniques. At the 1947 summer school, Henze turned to serial technique.

In his early years he worked with twelve-tone technique, for example in his First Symphony and First Violin Concerto of 1947. Sadler's Wells Ballet visited Hamburg in 1948; this inspired Henze to write a choreographic poem, Ballett-Variationen, which he completed in 1949. The first ballet he saw was Frederick Ashton's Scènes de Ballet. He wrote a letter of appreciation to Ashton, introducing himself as a 22-year-old composer. The next time he wrote to Ashton he enclosed the score of his Ballett-Variationen, which he hoped Ashton might find of interest. This work was first performed in Düsseldorf in September 1949 and staged for the first time in Wuppertal in 1958. In 1948 he became musical assistant at the Deutscher Theater in Konstanz, where his first opera Das Wundertheater, based on the work of Cervantes, was created.

In 1950 he became ballet conductor at the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden in Wiesbaden, where he composed two operas for radio, his First Piano Concerto, as well as his first stage work of real note, the jazz-influenced opera Boulevard Solitude, a modern recasting of the traditional Manon Lescaut story.

Move to Italy

Henze left Germany in 1953, in reaction against homophobia and the country's general political climate. His publisher, Schott's, had also offered Henze an advance on royalties, on condition that he leave his conducting posts to focus on composition.[2] This financial incentive allowed Henze to move to Italy, where he remained for most of his life. He settled on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. Also resident on the island were the composer William Walton and his wife Susana, who took a great interest in the young German composer. Henze's Quattro poemi for orchestra in 1955 made clear that he had moved far from the principles of the Darmstadt avant-garde. In January 1956 he left Ischia and moved to the mainland to live in Naples. Initially he suffered further disappointment, with controversial premieres of the opera König Hirsch, based on a text by Carlo Gozzi, and the ballet Maratona di danza, with a libretto by Luchino Visconti. However, he then began a long-lasting and fruitful creative partnership with the poet Ingeborg Bachmann. Working with her as librettist, he composed the operas Der Prinz von Homburg (1958) based on a text by Heinrich von Kleist and Der junge Lord (1964) after Wilhelm Hauff, as well as Serenades and Arias (1957) and his Choral Fantasy (1964).

He composed his Five Neapolitan Songs for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau soon after his arrival in Naples. A later sojourn in Greece provided the opportunity to complete his Hölderlin-based work Kammermusik 1958, dedicated to Benjamin Britten and premiered by the tenor Peter Pears, the guitarist Julian Bream and an eight-member chamber ensemble.[3][4]

Henze moved in 1961 to a secluded villa, 'La Leprara', on the hills of Marino, overlooking the River Tiber south of Rome. This time also signalled a strong leaning towards music involving the voice.

From 1962 until 1967, Henze taught masterclasses in composition at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, and in 1967 he became a visiting Professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. One of his greatest successes was the premiere of the opera Die Bassariden at the Salzburg Festival.

In the following period, he greatly strengthened his political involvement which also influenced his musical work. For example, the première of his oratorio Das Floß der Medusa in Hamburg failed when his West Berlin collaborators refused to perform under a portrait of Che Guevara and a revolutionary flag had been placed upon the stage.[5] His politics also influenced his Sixth Symphony (1969), Second Violin Concerto (1971), Voices (1973), and his piece for spoken word and chamber orchestra, El Cimarrón, based on a book by Cuban author Miguel Barnet about escaped black slaves during Cuba's colonial period.

An established composer

His political critique reached its high point in 1976 with the premiere of his opera We Come to the River.

In the same year Henze founded the Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte in Montepulciano for the promotion of new music, where his children's opera Pollicino premiered in 1980. From 1980 until 1991 he led a class in composition in the Cologne Music School. In 1981 he founded the Mürztal Workshops in the Austrian region of Styria, the same region where he set up the Deutschlandsberg Youth Music Festival in 1984. In 1988 he founded the Munich Biennale, an "international festival for new music theatre", of which he was the artistic director.

His own operas became more conventional once more, for example The English Cat (1983), and Das verratene Meer (1990), based on Yukio Mishima's novel Gogo no Eiko, known in English as The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea.

His later works, while less controversial, continued his political and social engagement. His Requiem (1990–93) comprised nine 'sacred concertos' for piano, trumpet and chamber orchestra, and was written in memory of Michael Vyner, the artistic director of the London Sinfonietta. The choral Ninth Symphony (1997), – "dedicated to the heroes and martyrs of German anti-fascism" – to a libretto by Hans-Ulrich Treichel based on motifs from the novel The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers is a defiant rejection of Nazi barbarism, with which Henze himself lived as a child and teenager. His last success was the 2003 premiere of the opera L'Upupa und der Triumph der Sohnesliebe (English: The Hoopoe and the Triumph of Filial Love) at the Salzburg Festival, with a text he wrote himself, based on a Syrian fairy tale. Other late compositions include Sebastian im Traum (2004) for large orchestra and the opera Phaedra (2007).

Henze lived with his partner Fausto Moroni from the early sixties, and Moroni planned and planted the hillside garden around La Leprara. Moroni cared for the composer when he suffered a spectacular emotional collapse during which he barely spoke and had to be encouraged to eat, living as though in a coma. In 2007, shortly after Henze's sudden recovery, Moroni died after a lengthy battle with cancer. Elogium Musicum (2008), for large orchestra and chorus singing Henze's own Latin text, is a memorial to his partner of more than forty years.

In 1995 Henze received the Westphalian Music Prize, which has carried his name since 2001. Invited by Walter Fink, he was the tenth composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2000, but owing to illness he did not attend. The music included his Requiem. On 7 November 2004, Henze received an honorary doctorate in Musicology from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München (University for Music and Performing Arts, Munich). In 1975 he became an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, London.[6] The English version of his autobiography, Bohemian Fifths, was published in 1998.[7]

Henze died in Dresden on 27 October 2012 at the age of 86.[8]


Henze's music has incorporated neoclassicism, jazz, the twelve-tone technique, serialism, and some rock or popular music. Although he did study atonalism early in his career, after his move to Italy in 1953, Henze's music became considerably more Neapolitan in style. His opera König Hirsch ("The Stag King") contains lush, rich textures. This trend is carried further in the opulent ballet music that he wrote for English choreographer Frederick Ashton's Ondine, completed in 1957. While Mendelssohn and Weber were important influences, the music for Ondine contains some jazz and there is much in it redolent of Stravinsky—not only Stravinsky the neo-classical composer, but also the composer of The Rite of Spring. His Maratona di danza, on the other hand, required much tighter integration of jazz elements, complete with an on-stage band, which was very different from the more romantic Ondine. Henze received much of the impetus for his ballet music from his earlier job as ballet adviser at the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden.

The textures for the cantata Kammermusik (1958, rev. 1963) are far harsher; Henze returned to atonalism in Antifone, and later the other styles mentioned above again became important in his music.



  1. ^ Rickards, Guy (1995). Hindemith, Hartmann and Henze. Phaidon Press. p. 198. ISBN 0-7148-3174-3.
  2. ^ Rickards, Guy (2012-10-27). "Hans Werner Henze obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-02-03.
  3. ^ "Kammermusik 1958". Schott Musik. Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  4. ^ "Henze: Kammermusik 1958; Apollo et Hyacinthus; Canzona – review". The Guardian. November 1, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  5. ^ Ernst Schnabel, "Zum Untergang einer Uraufführung" and "Postscriptum nach dreiunddreissig Tagen", in Hans Werner Henze and Ernst Schnabel, Das Floss der Medusa: Text zum Oratorium, 47–61 & 65–79 (Munich: Piper-Verlag, 1969); Andrew Porter, "Henze: The Raft of the Frigate 'Medusa' – Oratorio" [record review of DGG 139428-9], Gramophone 47, no. 563 (April 1970): 1625; "Affären/Henze: Sie bleibt", Der Spiegel 22, no. 51 (16 December 1968): 152. (in German)
  6. ^ "Honorary Members of the Royal Academy of Music". Royal Academy of Music. 14 October 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  7. ^ "Hans Werner Henze". Telegraph. 2012-10-28. Retrieved 2015-02-03.
  8. ^ "Famed German composer Hans Werner Henze dies". BBC News. 27 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.

Further reading

  • Bokina, John. 1997. Opera and Politics: From Monteverdi to Henze. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-06935-9.
  • Henze, Hans Werner. 1984. Musik und Politik. Schriften und Gespräche [Music and Politics: Collected Writings] Ed. by Jens Brockmeier. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, ISBN 3-423-10305-1 (1st Edition 1976, ISBN 3-423-01162-9). English translation of 1st German edition by Peter Labanyi: UK 1982 (Faber & Faber, ISBN 0-8014-1545-4) and US 1982 (Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-571-11719-8).
  • Henze, Hans Werner. 1998. Bohemian Fifths: An Autobiography. Translated by Stewart Spencer. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-17815-4 [Translation of Reiselieder mit böhmischen Quinten: Autobiographische Mitteilungen 1926–1995. Frankfurt: S. Fischer, 1996. ISBN 3-10-032605-9].
  • Kennedy, Michael. 2006. The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd edition, revised. Associate editor, Joyce Bourne. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861459-4.
  • Palmer-Füchsel, Virginia. 2001. "Henze, Hans Werner". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links

Compases para preguntas ensimismadas

Compases para preguntas ensimismadas is a musical composition for viola, strings, wind sextet and percussion by the German composer Hans Werner Henze.

It was written during 1969–70. The title is taken from lines in Spanish by the Chilean poet Gaston Salvatore, means literally metres for questions absorbed in self-contemplation. The viola part is the monologue-like centre of the work, in a way parallel to Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, which according to some reviewers it appears to directly reference.It was commissioned by Paul Sacher for the Japanese viola player Hirofumi Fukai, who gave the premiere in Basel on 11 February 1971, and subsequently recorded it under the composer's direction.

Das verratene Meer

Das verratene Meer (The Betrayed Sea) is an opera in two parts and 14 scenes, with music by Hans Werner Henze to a German libretto by Hans-Ulrich Treichel, after Yukio Mishima's novel The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Composed between 1986 and 1989, it was Henze's ninth opera, his third that he wrote for the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

Der Prinz von Homburg (opera)

Der Prinz von Homburg (The Prince of Homburg) is a German-language opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze with a libretto by Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973). It was completed in 1958 but premiered on 22 May 1960 in Hamburg.

Double Concerto (Henze)

The Double Concerto by German composer Hans Werner Henze is a double concerto for oboe and harp, better known by its original Italian title Doppio concerto. It was completed and first performed in Zurich in 1966, and published by Schott.

Ein Landarzt (opera)

Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor) is a one-act chamber opera composed by Hans Werner Henze. The libretto was written by Henze and is closely based on Kafka's 1917 short story "Ein Landarzt". The work was originally composed as a radio opera and was premiered on 19 November 1951 in a broadcast by Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk. Henze subsequently revised the work in 1964 both as a monodrama for baritone and chamber orchestra and as a one-act staged opera. The stage version was premiered by the Oper Frankfurt on 30 November 1965.

Elegy for Young Lovers

Elegy for Young Lovers (in German, Elegie für junge Liebende) is an opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Fantasia for Strings (Henze)

Fantasia for Strings (German: Fantasia für Streicher) is a composition by German composer Hans Werner Henze. It was finished in 1966, as part of the soundtrack for Volker Schlöndorff's film adaptation of Robert Musil's novel The Confusions of Young Törless. This composition has been published by Schott Music.

König Hirsch

König Hirsch (in English, The Stag King) is an opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze to a German libretto by Heinz von Cramer after Il re cervo, a theatrical fable (1762) by Carlo Gozzi.

List of compositions by Hans Werner Henze

This is a list of works by German composer Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012). Many of them are published by Schott Music.

Requiem (Henze)

Hans Werner Henze composed the nine Sacred Concertos that comprise his Requiem over the course of three years from 1991 to 1993 on commissions from the London Sinfonietta, Suntory Corporation for the NHK Philharmonic, and Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne. The first movement, Introitus: Requiem Aeternam was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta as part of a memorial concert for Artistic Director Michael Vyner who died on 20 October 1989. In addition to Henze, the London Sinfonietta also commissioned seven other prominent composers (Luciano Berio, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Toru Takemitsu, Oliver Knussen, and Nigel Osborne) to write works in Vyner's memory to make up the program which was performed on the 6 May 1990.

The Requiem consists of nine Sacred Concertos that, with one exception, carry the common movement titles of the Requiem Mass, albeit out of order. Henze also chooses to interpolate the Ave verum corpus in with the other movements, though in his autobiography Bohemian Fifths he never expressly states why. Even though the movements carry the traditional titles, there are no singers, and no text within the work. In his autobiography, Henze states that this choice was made to open up the scope of the Requiem and make it a "...secular, multicultural piece, an act of brotherly love that was written, 'in memoriam Michael Vyner,'whose name does duty for all the many other people in the world who have died before their time and whose sufferings and passing are mourned in my music."(471)

Sonata per archi

The String Sonata No. 1, commonly referred to by its original Italian name Sonata per archi, is a composition for string orchestra by German composer Hans Werner Henze. It was composed between 1957 and 1958.

Symphony No. 2 (Henze)

Symphony No. 2 by Hans Werner Henze was composed in 1949 and premiered on 1 December that year in Stuttgart by the South German Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Müller-Kray. The symphony is dedicated to conductor Hermann Scherchen.

Symphony No. 3 (Henze)

Hans Werner Henze's Symphony No. 3 was written between 1949 and 1950. It was premiered at the Donaueschingen Festival on 7 October 1951 by the South German Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Rosbaud.

Symphony No. 4 (Henze)

Hans Werner Henze's Symphony No. 4 was written in 1955. It was premiered at the Hochschule für Musik, Berlin on 9 October 1963 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer.

Symphony No. 7 (Henze)

The Seventh Symphony by the German composer Hans Werner Henze was written in 1983-84. It was commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker as part of the orchestra's centenary celebrations in 1982.

Unlike its immediate predecessors, Henze has stated that this work is very much a 'German' symphony, in the Beethovenian tradition. Accordingly, it is cast in four movements and is broadly analogous to the 'classical' form: Introduction, slow movement, Scherzo and Finale. However Henze uses even more traditional German motifs across the movements: an allemande (a German dance) in the first and Liedform in the second. For the two final movements he focuses on the eighteenth-century poet Friedrich Hölderlin, incarcerated at Tübingen where he was subjected to what amounted to torture in the name of medical intervention. The final movement is a deeply lyrical orchestral setting of Hölderlin's late poem Hälfte des Lebens (Half of Life).

Symphony No. 8 (Henze)

The Eighth Symphony by the German composer Hans Werner Henze was composed in 1992–93.

Using Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as inspiration, it has a lighter theme than the major work it immediately follows, the Requiem of 1992. Each movement is inspired by a short section of the play: the first derives in part from Puck's line "I'll put a girdle round the earth/ In forty minutes". Henze depicts Puck's global journey in pitch variation: the East is middle C, the South Pole is the lowest notes in the modern symphony orchestra's range, while the North Pole is naturally at the opposite end of the range. The second movement depicts Titania's attempted seduction of Bottom, whilst the Adagio final movement takes Puck's If we shadows have offended speech at the end of the play.

It was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who commissioned the piece (and to whom Henze dedicated it) under Seiji Ozawa on 1 October 1993.

The Bassarids

The Bassarids (in German: Die Bassariden) is an opera in one act and an intermezzo, with music by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, after Euripides's The Bacchae.

The conflict in the opera is between human rationality and emotional control, represented by the King of Thebes, Pentheus, and unbridled human passion, represented by the god Dionysus.

The English Cat

The English Cat (in German, Die englische Katze) is an opera in two acts by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by Edward Bond, based on Les peines de coeur d'une chatte anglaise (The heartbreak of an English cat) by Honoré de Balzac. The opera was first performed in a German translation by the Stuttgart Opera at the Schlosstheater Schwetzingen at the Schwetzingen Festival on 2 June 1983. The French premiere was at the Opéra-Comique, Paris in 1984. The first performance using the original English text was at Santa Fe on 13 July 1985. The UK premiere was at the Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, on 19 August 1987. A revised version was performed at Montepulciano in 1990 and this was given in London in 1991.

Tristan (Henze)

Tristan is a six-movement orchestral work by the German composer Hans Werner Henze.

Scored for piano, tape and full orchestra, it takes the form of a homage to Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, with the piano providing preludes to a series of widely divergent material, both live and on tape, including direct quotations from Brahms's First Symphony and Chopin's Funeral March, a birdsong-like treatment on tape of a recording of a soloist singing Isolde's part and a child reading extracts from Joseph Bédier's account of the death of Isolde (in the English translation by Hilaire Belloc) as well as a recording of a human heartbeat.

Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, it was premiered on 20 October 1974 under Colin Davis at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The piano soloist was Homero Francesch, who later recorded it with the composer conducting.

The six movements are:



Prelude and Variations

Tristan's Folly



Hans Werner Henze
Film scores
Other compositions
Related articles
Twelve-tone and serial composers

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