<< -- 2 -- Robert Anderson SLAVE LABOUR
Henze has written tellingly about the Second Piano Concerto, which is hardly unpolitical: 'It is the work of somebody who verbalises his dissatisfaction, his powerlessness, his desires with so-called middle-class convention'. He characterises the work as 'a piece of slave labour', from which 'there is no way out'. The concerto begins with a seismic explosion, from which the admirable soloist Rolf Plagge emerges apparently unscathed and unperturbed [listen -- track 1, 0:05-1:09]. There are similar cataclysmic events mounted by the orchestra and Gerhard Markson in the opening Moderato, but Plagge plods steadily on with commendable sangfroid. Henze describes the succeeding Vivace as the core of the piece, made up of 'four sound blocks, each of which is submitted to three prismlike modifications'. Many a hearing would be necessary to locate the exact position of each prism; meanwhile it is easy to enjoy the music's ebullience and the soloist's temporary escape from earthquakes and slavery [listen -- track 1, 12:48-13:40]. The final section owes its doomladen sense of guilt to one of Shakespeare's bleaker texts, Sonnet 129 beginning,
- The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
- Is lust in action; and till action, lust
- Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
- Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust.
Henze suggests the sonnet might provide a motto for the whole concerto; certainly it informs the painful nips, shrieks and stabbing menace that begin the second Moderato section [listen -- track 2, 0:00-1:10].
Copyright © 2 April 2003
Robert Anderson, London, UK