Henze: Symphony No 9 Berlin Radio Chorus & SO/Janowski | CD review

(Wergo)

When Hans Werner Henze returned to composing symphonies in 1983 after a 15-year break, his ambitions had shifted significantly. The years of producing ­expressionist, agit-prop works were ­behind him, and in the four symphonies Henze has composed since, he seems to have found his peace with Germany's troubled history in the 20th century and with its symphonic tradition. The Ninth Symphony, first performed in 1997, ­tackled both head on: not only is it a choral work, inevitably conjuring ­associations with Beethoven's Ninth, but it is based on Anna Seghers's anti-fascist novel The Seventh Cross, on which Hans-Ulrich Treichel's text is based. Henze's seven movements reflect the horror and ­anguish of Seghers's ­descriptions; the music is densely ­orchestrated and ­oppressive, the choral writing demanding; there are no soloists. The piece proclaims itself serious, and does so a bit too obviously. This performance conducted by Marek Janowski, though, is good, and ­appears to be the only one available; an earlier EMI version, by Ingo Metzmacher, has disappeared from the catalogue.

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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