Henze - a view from the stalls
Hello, I'm Rosalind Porter and I am about to dive head first into the Total Immersion Henze Weekend. My background is in classical music, (you may have read my most recent blogs from the Free Thinking Festival) and I hope my posts will provide some thoughts from a BBC R3 listener's perspective during the next couple of days
One of the first contemporary scores which I encountered during my training as an orchestral violinist was Hans Werner Henze's Heliogabalus Imperator - so it was quite an unexpected coincidence to read that this was also the initial Henze experience for my fellow blogger, BBCSO sub-principal violist Phil Hall. This exotically provocative score, vividly chronicling the outré lifestyle and ultimately sticky end of a young Roman Emperor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elagabalus) certainly whetted my enduring appetite for exploring Henze's compositions; what a pity that Heliogabalus is so rarely - if ever - played these days.
There has been a considerable amount written about Hans Werner Henze's political and cultural ideology. While preparing for this weekend I've found myself wondering how much one realistically needs to be aware of these complex issues when considering his compositions as a listener. If I approach the works being performed this weekend simply through the actual music, is my listening experience somehow less valid than someone who assimilates the complexity of the composer's philosophy together with the music? It should be fascinating to watch Memoirs of an Outsider - a film dealing with Henze's life; could it radically alter my perception of his music?
Whether one is an orchestral musician or a member of the audience, the first performance of a new work is always an exciting occasion. There are two UK premieres during the Immersion Weekend and it seems an excellent opportunity to consider how we, as listeners, approach hearing a piece of music for the very first time. Perhaps blog readers might contribute their thoughts on this?
I can hardly wait for Saturday!