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Mark Berry: Henze, Wagner, & German Musical Culture

PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 1:35 pm
by alberich00
Dear wagnerheim.com discussion forum members and visitors:

This is the second of my mini reviews of talks presented at the Wagner Bicentennial Symposium sponsored by the Univ. of South Carolina early in 2013.

"Henze, Wagner, and German Musical Culture," by Prof. Mark Berry of Royal Holloway, Univ. of London:

Dr. Berry noted that Henze was a Jewish German homosexual. Though his father became a Nazi enthusiast, Henze was horrified by the Germans' crimes and felt ashamed of Germany. German art became suspect, though Bach was a legitimate patrimony [PH: obviously untainted retroactively by Nazism].

Henze felt he could create a redemptive art which would break with the German past. He could distinguish his art from Totalitarianism. Though Webern created a new, avant-garde music, it was almost totalitarian in its orthodoxy, its adherence to strict rules.

Boulez, Nono, and Stockhausen turned on Henze. What, in the face of this, had become of aesthetic freedom?

In 1960 Henze completed his opera "The Prince of Homburg" (Kleist), a thorough Germanic work. This was an expression of Henze's resistance to authority, even that of the avant-garde. Henze resisted the 12-tone system; his harmony was more traditional.

W.H. Auden insisted Henze study Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods," in spite of Henze's aversion to Wagner's music [PH: Auden is reputed to have described Wagner as something like the greatest genius of all time: I'll have to look this up to verify it]. However, Berry tells us that Henze was not antagonistic to "Tristan." He says Henze couldn't stand Wagner's emotionalism, Aryanism, insecure heroes, and villains.

In his opera "The Bassarids," Henze admitted following the Wagner-Mahler-Schoenberg tradition.

In the early 70's, Henze composed [PH: I couldn't quite make out the title to the following opera; it would be well if the Univ. of South Carolina posted transcripts of these lectures online:] "The Tedious Path to the Apt. of Natasha Ungeheuer." According to Berry this opera presented a false utopia which identifies with a revolution but is not involved in it. It was, he says, calculated to provoke the Bourgeois. Berry says this was the last of Henze's operas in the tradition of Wagner and Berg, but was also a sort of testament to Mozart.

Q&A: During the Q&A, it was noted that Henze's anarchic and eclectic score goes totally against Wagner's stylistic unity.

A key question posed by Henze's experience: how could a composer carry on the German tradition in light of Germany's modern history?