In praise of … Hans Werner Henze | Editorial

It may take many years to fully measure the significance of this prolific and stylistically eclectic composer's output

There was a generosity and a vast musical scope to the life and work of Hans Werner Henze. He was both prolific and stylistically eclectic with a body of work that spanned opera – he became Europe's leading composer of the form – a dozen ballets and more than 200 works for the concert hall. There were two threads running through this output. Political engagement was one. His horror of fascism was formed in him at an early age by a Nazi father, and a forced enrolment in the Hitler Youth at the age of 12. He fled Germany for Italy, more because of its intolerance of his homosexuality than its rightwing politics. The place he assumed in European culture was the other. WH Auden, Chester Kallman, Edward Bond, Luchino Visconti, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, all stirred Henze's restless musical journey. Naples, London, Tuscany counted as homes of a life lived in exile. It may take many years to appreciate what we have all collectively lost.


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