Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Hans Werner Henze
Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 3
Five Night-Pieces for violin & piano

Peter Sheppard Skaerved/Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Aaron Shorr, piano

Naxos 8.557738 [2004, 70 mins]

I was attracted to this release by the Night-Pieces, composed for the Sheppard/Shorr duo's 1990 debut recital (see my welcome for Vols 1 & 2 of their Beethoven Explored recital CDs).

These short pieces are accessible and even include a punning pair of "Shepherd's Songs" in honour of Peter Sheppard Skaerved's long association with Henze's music, which he has recorded extensively.

I have some difficulties with Henze's more radical 'modernist' scores (likewise with Maxwell Davies') but would not want to dissuade anyone [specialist reviewers wanted!].

The conductor's notes are very full (e.g. telling us how Henze engages with Thomas Mann, Faust, Goethe, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, sex and sexual guilt - - empty virtuoso v. tortured philosopher composer etc, but they don't help a lot with actual listening.

Performances sound convinced and convincing and this is music to hear repeatedly and digest. At £6 they are certainly worth acquiring.

But f or hoverers on the edge, spoilt for choice, it may be helpful to know that Naxos has a policy of presenting to browsers sound clips which are longer than the usual; 25% of each track (100% to subscribers): http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.557738.

Try these and make up your own mind. I shall persevere and return to this well produced and vividly recorded disc by the company which above all others makes non-main stream music accessibly affordable to everyone.

A CD of Henze's three violin concertos is sympathetically reviewed by Guy Rickards in Gramophone.

© Peter Grahame Woolf