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Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin

Sinfonien 1 & 6

  • Type CD
  • Label Wergo
  • UPC 4010228672428
  • Catalog number WER 67242
  • Release date
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About the album

In contrast to many composers who only began to write symphonies in their maturity, Hans Werner Henze composed his First Symphony when he was 20. Henze himself later described this original version as a “complete failure” – a revised version of the work was performed in Berlin in 1964: “Rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic cells from the original version remain, and in the slow movement there are almost no changes; otherwise everything is new, different, and better.” (Henze) In fact, the outer movements of this now three-movement work are not mere revisions, but completely new compositions, in which Henze could incorporate the experiences of his Symphonies Nos. 2–5. He uses here 12-tone thematic material, without strictly applying any dodecaphonic techniques however. While the original version of the symphony had already been written for a relatively small orchestra, the instrumentation has now been reduced even further: bassoons, trombones, tuba, and percussion have been omitted and replaced with harp, piano, and celesta.

At the end of the 1960s, a new era began for Henze, marked above all by the increasingly radical nature of his commitment on behalf of the political left; he declared his solidarity with the student movement and with Third World liberation movements. In 1969, he took two trips to Cuba, at the invitation of the Cuban National Cultural Council: During his first visit he was asked specifically for a new symphony; on the second trip he already brought the orchestral material of his “Sinfonia N. 6” with him. The world premiere took place in Havana the very same year. Apart from his politically motivated interest, it was, above all, the folk music of Cuba that influenced Henze when composing the work: “My Sixth, a Lutheran Protestant symphony, has a pagan body: its pulse beat and blood pressure are black. This comes from mythology and from the rhythms of the music, an important means of expression for the Africans who had once been abducted to Cuba and settled down there, of a music which is now as lively and irresistible as ever. I made these rhythms my own. I wanted them to permeate the whole piece and to ensure that every voice had a place in the overall structure.”

co-production with Deutschlandradio Kultur and ROC Berlin

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