Hans Werner Henze (1 July 1926 – 27 Oct 2012)

The Marxist composer Hans Werner Henze died today. In many of his mid-period works, he managed to bring a deep political commitment to traditional, large-scale classical structures and a style which, while colourful and multifaceted, never drifted too far from the ‘complexity’ of ’50s musical modernism. Some of his operas from the late ’60s and ’70s were arguably the most explicitly committed socialist operas to ever pass through the international (Western) opera houses. Works like El Cimmarón, Das Floß der Medusa, La Cubana and his Sixth Symphony expressed the composer’s huge enthusiasm for Castro’s Cuba, while his cantata Voices captured the international revolutionary sentiments flourishing post-1968. His 1971 work Der Langwierige Weg in die Wohnung der Natascha Ungeheuer is a critique of bourgeois (‘champagne’) socialists, while We Come To The River (1974-76) is an anti-war work, with a violent libretto by Edward Bond.

One of the biting point‘s aims over the next few months is to survey the work of key left-wing composers through the 20th and 21st Centuries, and investigate the various different ways in which ‘political music’ (or a ‘politics of music’) has been imagined and attempted. So more on Henze later, but for now we say thanks and so long………

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