2009, Music

Symphonies Nos. 7-8 (2009) by H.W. Henze, performed by Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

This set pairs two of Henze’s later symphonies from a time which he had embarked on a more conservative path. Though the performances are excellent (as far as I know), I find these symphonies to be less interesting than his earlier work.

Henze’s first symphony in twenty years, the seventh, is a markedly more traditional piece – and admittedly so, apparently, as Henze claimed he was trying to write in the tradition of Beethoven. The work is is very pleasing and, as these things go, is something I enjoy listening to, but I cannot shake the conservativeness of it. Certainly it is more daring than most Neo-Classical/Neo-Romantic works, and it breaks more with tradition, but it is, at bottom, a far more conservative piece than what he used to write. And so I struggle with it. But, I cannot deny how compelling it is from a listening perspective.

The eighth symphony is, if anything, even more traditional than the seventh. It’s programmatic, inspired by A Midsummmer Night’s Dream, and I guess a greater familiarity with that play – which I have read, but not for years – might help me here. Though there are touches of the old Henze, for the most part I find myself yearning for his younger radicalism, even though this is certainly fine work, as Neo-Romanticism goes.

It’s a fine collection if Neo-Romanticism is your thing, but it’s not really my thing. Still better than a lot of the other revivalist stuff, though.


  1. Symphony No. 7: Tanz 11:19
  2. Symphony No. 7: Ruhig bewegt 11:08
  3. Symphony No. 7: Unablässig in Bewegung 5:20
  4. Symphony No. 7: Ruhig, verhalten 7:01
  5. Sinfonia No. 8: Allegro 7:40
  6. Sinfonia No. 8: Allegramente con comodo tenerezza e ballabilità 9:46
  7. Sinfonia No. 8: Adagio 8:07

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

Recorded November 2006 (7) and February 2007 (8) at Jesus Christ Church, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany

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