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Henze's Requiem - Nine Sacred Concertos

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Rosalind Porter Rosalind Porter | 16:58 UK Time, Sunday, 17 January 2010

the_late_Michael_Vyner.jpgThe film Requiem - 9 Sacred Concertos - shown as part of the Henze - Total Immersion weekend at the Barbican - contained what was perhaps certainly for me the thorniest and most intense music of the day.  Certainly, the deep emotion of the score was evident right from the start and since it was written in memoriam of Michael Vyner of the London Sinfonietta there was obviously a great deal of intensity and loss felt in the music. 

There's no chorus in this Requiem, nor any text, instead Henze has taken the movement format of the genre, albeit it not in traditional order and used it to construct nine 'concertos' which cleverly contain elements of the traditional orchestral elements of the requiem. Perhaps the fact that for me the filming of the orchestra (Ensemble Modern of Frankfurt under Ingo Metzmacher's direction with solo trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger and solo pianist Ueli Wiget) was not as slick as one might expect, this rather diminished the overall impression I was left of the music in general.  Perhaps it would have had a deeper effect if I had simply been listening to the score rather than being confronted with some at times rather ineffective editing of the musicians playing on screen.  

But I have to say that I want to get a recording of the Requiem and try to listen again and understand more of the complexity of this immense and heartfelt work.   One interesting factor which did strike me was how there seemed to be an apotheosis at the end of the Sanctus.  Suddenly it was as if light had shone through the clouds, and the discordant feel of the orchestra dissolved into a proclamation of a positive conclusion.   Fascinating music expressing strong emotions and no doubting the virtuosity of both Hardenberger and Wiget, but I wasn't particularly endeared by the production values of the film.  There's something a bit wrong when you can hear a violin solo, but see only the accompaniment...

  • Michael Vyner was musical director of the London Sinfonietta from 1972 until his death in 1989. He was enormously influential in the promotion of new music in the United Kingdom, and commissioned numerous works for the Sinfonietta from an eclectic group of composers; he worked tirelessly to encourage young composers. The photo is by Bo Lutoslawski 


  • Comment number 1.

    This is so amazing to suddenly see a portrait I took just over 20 years ago, at Michael Vyner's home. Memories of an amazing man who was so complex and yet so open flood in.

    And this happened on an extraordinary day of my life. How anyone can dispute the presence of Friends, even if they are not alive any more?!?

    Bo Lutoslawski

    I even have this portrait on my website and wrote about it too.


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