Henze: Sech gesange aus dem Arabischen. Ian Bostridge, Julius Drake. 1 CD. EMI

5571122 EH

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Hans Werner Henze: Six gesange aus dem Arabischen + 3 Lieder nach Auden. Ian Bostridge's tenor and Julius Drake on piano, in some recordings from 2000.

 1 CD. EMI. 5571122

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Hans Werner Henze: Six gesange aus dem Arabischen + 3 Lieder nach Auden. Ian Bostridge's tenor and Julius Drake on piano, in some recordings from 2000.

 1 CD. EMI Classics. 5571122

*** Recommendation ***

 

1.  Gesänge (6) aus dem Arabischen by Hans Werner Henze 
 
Performer:  Ian Bostridge (Tenor), Julius Drake (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1997-1998
Date of Recording: 04/2000
Venue:  Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, London
Length: 46 Minutes 21 Secs.
Language: German 
 
 
 
2.  Auden Songs (3) by Hans Werner Henze 
 
Performer:  Ian Bostridge (Tenor), Julius Drake (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1983
Date of Recording: 04/2000
Venue:  Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, London
Length: 10 Minutes 28 Secs.
Language: German

 

Imagine the gray chromaticism, dense chords, gnarly dissonances, jumping lyrical vocal lines, and clear text-setting of Hans Werner Henze's later operas. Scale them down within the parameters of a piano-accompanied song cycle and you've got the gist of his Six Songs from the Arabian. The songs were commissioned for and dedicated to both performers on this disc, who recorded them six months after premiering the cycle in November, 1999. Henze wrote most of the texts himself, depicting pirates, sea-monsters, and sundry creatures from strange worlds. You might think of the six songs as interconnected mini-operas. The opening salvo, Selim und der Wind, largely pits the tenor's long-limbed, declamatory phrases against a scurrying piano accompaniment full of discursive left-hand runs and clotted right-hand chords. Lighter textured, less sustained relief appears when the composer/poet intersperses six lines of Goethe. By contrast, the sparse, spiky textures of Fatuma's Klage are laced with snake-like roulades, scales, and trills that cover the full compass of Ian Bostridge's supple, responsive tenor voice. I'm especially fond of the third song, Ein Sonnenaufgang, whose relative calm abounds in lyric beauty and pastel-tinted harmonies.

Three 1983 settings of texts by W. H. Auden fill out the disc. These are briefer, gentler, and more immediately approachable songs than those in the Arabian cycle. I recommend that you listen to the Auden songs first, then move on to the big work. Bostridge clearly has absorbed and internalized Henze's songs to a point where they emerge as organic, flowing entities. The same holds true for Julius Drake's rock-solid mastery of the Arabian songs' difficult piano parts, together with his perfectly gauged dynamics and balances. In an era when contemporary art song has zero commercial potential and little interest among the major labels, we should applaud EMI for its vision and courage in releasing this disc.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

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