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MALCOLM MILLER attended the UK première of Henze's Ninth


A ninth symphony has special significance, and that by Hans Werner Henze, which received a stunning UK première at the BBC Prom on 1 September with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Radio Chorus conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in the presence of the composer was especially impressive. Preceded by a formidable performance of Beethoven's third Piano Concerto in C minor from Alfred Brendel, shades of the first great Ninth were evident.

Henze himself draws the explicit 'programme' as a type of reinterpretation of Schiller's idealism for the post-modern era : rather than 'praises of joy' it is the 'world of terror and persecution' that forms the topic. The chorus sings vivid and dramatic settings of seven poems by Hans Ulrich Treichel based on The Seventh Cross by Anna Segher, a novel filmed for Hollywood in 1942. Treichel's poems about seven escapees from a concentration camp, six of whom were recaptured and crucified, whilst a cross for the missing seventh escapee remained empty, are both harrowing and poignant. Henze's through-composed settings are rich in orchestral colour and character. As a result it is amongst Henze's more accessible works, more oratorio than symphony. Perhaps that is also a weakness, the depiction of events fixed rather than suggestive.

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Copyright © 7 September 2000 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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