- Voices, for mezzo-soprano, tenor & orchestra
Hans Werner Henze's career is notable for his mastery of a broad range of idioms, from the post-Romantic lyricism of "Cantata della fiaba estrema" to the neo-classical delicacy of his chamber music to the brash modernism of "Der langwierige Weg in die Wohnung der Natasha Ungeheuer." "Voices," written in 1973, can be heard as a compendium of many of the types of music he had embraced. It's a piece that, as a whole, should appeal to listeners who enjoy a wide spectrum of modern styles, but it has the potential to annoy anyone with a low tolerance for extreme eclecticism. The song cycle, for mezzo-soprano, tenor, electronics, and a chamber ensemble, each of whose members plays a variety of instruments, sets 22 political texts by a wide range of writers, as diverse as Ho Chi Minh, Heinrich Heine, Calvin C. Hernton, and Bertolt Brecht, in English, German, Spanish, and Italian. Each song creates a distinctively individual little universe that gives voice to the author's outrage at oppression and inhumanity. The composer's settings are varied according to the character of the texts. Henze's skewed settings of several Brecht poems are distinctly flavored by Weill. His setting of a tragic account of Nazi brutality has an ironic folksy lyricism. For "The electric cop," taken from a collection of Black American poetry of the '70s, Henze uses Sprechstimme over a massively dense musique concrète collage juxtaposed with Latin American salsa to summon up the turmoil of the era. Tenor Paul Sperry and mezzo-soprano Sarah Walker are consummate performers of new music, intensely committed to putting the music across with maximum impact and with the experience and skill to deliver the variety of vocal styles and extended techniques that Henze demands. The composer leads the London Sinfonietta in a dazzling performance of his brilliantly colorful score. This is the original recording of the work, made just four years after its premiere. The sound is clean and vivid, allowing details of orchestration to pop with clarity.