Henze: Violin Concerto No. 2

review henze x1 cong

This seems to us to be a very personal album: violinist Peter Sheppard Skaeved knew the composer and talked to him about what he was thinking when he wrote the music.
The opening piece Il Vitalino raddoppiato, looks back to the work of Tomaso Vitali (1663-1745), an Italian composer and violinist from Bologna.
The sleeve notes explain that Henze modelled his writing on both the authentic sound of the original early music and the modern re-interpretation of that music. Henze told Skaeved that when writing it, he imagined going into a bar and meeting Vitali, and a conversation-cum-argument ensued, ending in a fight, which Henze wins. Musically, it’s rich and romantic.
Violin Concerto No. 2 is less successful and is between the theatre and concert stages: it’s a classical piece with spoken words and comes from a period when Henze was interested in “action music”. It’s more modern and experimental. Sadly much of its interest is not visible on a CD: the soloist has to arrive on stage late dressed like the teller of tall tales Baron Munchausen; Skaeved writes that when he performed it, he fell over a mic stand and arrived later and more dishevelled than planned. Once on stage, the orchestra tries to stop him playing, the violinist fighting his way to the fore and ending the piece triumphant but playing a horrible note. It’s not a piece that’s meant just to be listened to — you have to read what it’s about and then work at it. We thought it mostly worked — there are few ragged bits — but it’s an interesting piece.
Out on Naxos (8573289).

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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