Hans Werner Henze (1926 – ) has had a prolific career, and
many of his works are for the stage. The two works recorded
here are unique in that they were originally written for radio
broadcast in 1951 and 1953, respectively. Both were also
later configured for the stage during the mid 1960’s, and
“Ein Landarzt” (A Country Doctor) was also adapted as a
monodrama for baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who
premiered the work in 1965, with Henze conducting.
This recording incorporates revisions that Henze made in 1993
and 1994, primarily involving electroacoustic passages which
made it easier to perform these works “live.”
The libretto for the 26-minute, “Ein Landarzt” was written
by the composer, and is based upon a short story by Franz
Kafka (1883-1924). This dark, nightmarish tale concerns a
doctor who braves a blizzard to treat a boy suffering from a
gangrenous wound. The serial score is dense and effective,
drawing comparison with Arnold Schönberg’s “Erwartung.”
The singing was persuasive and the orchestra was dramatically
driven by Maestro Markus Stenz (1965 – ).
On the other hand, “Das Ende Einer Welt” is a cyclical farce
with a slightly longer running time of roughly 38 minutes. It is
set in the 18th Century and as a part of the drama, contains
a performance of a Sonata, composed in the style of that period.
While still primarily atonal, the score is lighter and more
transparent than that of “Ein Landarzt.” “Das Ende Einer Welt”
is based upon a libretto by Wolfgang Hildesheimer, and is a
more typical radio drama, replete with sound effects and
unusual instrumentation. The orchestral forces are clearly
smaller, and Henze himself acts as narrator.
In a sense, it’s nice that these two short dramatic works
were originally written for an auditory medium, thereby
negating the necessity of the “visual element.” By “merely
listening to this CD,” I’m not really lacking anything! This was
also a fine performance, and it didn’t hurt to have actual
participation by the composer.
The WERGO label always seems to do a great job with
anything they attempt; therefore, I felt I would get a fine
representation of these works when I chose them, and I
wasn’t disappointed. I’d recommend this disc for those
who like to “explore.”