Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Intriguing Guitar Music of Henze (Volume Two)

Now I haven't heard the first volume of Naxos' collection of the guitar music of Hans Werner Henze (b. 1926), but if it's anything like volume two (Guitar Music 2) (Naxos 8.557345), it is something very good indeed. Volume two centers around the beautifully executed and thoroughly conceived performances of guitarist Franz Halasz. Henze's music is quite difficult to play and Maestro Halasz not only makes it seem easy, he brings out the logic of the music in ways that give comprehension, cohesion, and a great deal of pleasure to my ears.

There are four works represented here, covering the composer's output between 1974 and 1986. The very beautiful "Guitar Sonata No. 1 on Shakespearean Characters" opens the program, and it is delightful. "Carillon, Recitatif, Masque" follows, scored for guitar, mandolin and harp. It too is extraordinarily attractive. Henze's detailed concern for the sonoric possibilities at hand combines with his very fluid inventive genius, here and elsewhere. It's music that is as modern as modern can be, yet has a sensuous quality that engages the listener on a visceral level.

The 1986 "Ode to an Aeolian Harp" joins Halasz with a chamber ensemble. It further underscores Henze's transparent, brightly colored musical palette. The wind-like play of phrasing and the somewhat brittle solo guitar response make for pure magic.

Great music, fabulous performances! Now I must hear Volume One. Henze should not be overlooked. He is a master and these are some compositional jewels.

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