Tuesday 30 October 2012
Hans Werner Henze HonDMus 1926-2012
We note with regret the death of German composer Hans Werner Henze on Saturday 27 October.
Hans Werner Henze was one of the most prolific and performed composers of our time. His output was vast and included work in all forms from chamber music to oratorio and symphony. But it was especially his work in music theatre that made Henze one of the most frequently performed of contemporary composers. The radio version of his opera Ein Landarzt gained the 'Prix Italia' in 1953, while other works include the operas Boulevard Soltitude, Elegy For Young Lovers, The Bassarids, The Young Mi’Lord, and Phaedra as well as the ballet Undine.
Henze’s music and ideology were profoundly humanitarian. The power of his stage works in particular was sustained by the translation of that humanity into music of emotional power and immediacy. What was for him the natural extension of that humanism into work more overt in its political statement has generated conflict – for example, in Hamburg in 1968, the first performance of his oratorio The Raft of the Medusa, a requiem for Che Guevara, was abandoned in chaos as a red flag was draped over the stage and some of the musicians refused to take part.
After that time – and after a move to Italy – he continued his passionate commitment to both composition and to teaching. He won innumerable awards and founded major music festivals in Italy and in Germany, where he founded the Munich Biennale - an international festival of new music theatre which he headed until 1996.
He last visited the RCM in 2010, when he was awarded the HonDMus by our President, HRH The Prince of Wales.