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Hans Werner Henze

Publisher: Chester Music

Sebastian im Traum (2004)
Commissioned by the Eduard van Beinum Foundation, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and New York Philharmonic.
Text Writer
Georg Trakel
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes

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Programme Note
Hans Werner Henze Sebastian im Traum (2004)

One of my first printed compositions was "Apollo et Hyacintus" (1948/49), improvisations for harpsichord and eight solo instruments based on the early poem "Im Park" by Georg Trakl, the great Expressionist. At the end of the piece, an alto recites this (short) poem, which I had wanted to connect with the legendary myth of life and death of the boy Hyacinth, whose pictures were transformed through me into musical signs. Since then, I have regarded the final lines

O, Dann neige auch Du die Stirne
Vor der Ahnen verfallenem Marmor

as a motto for my creative doings in general, without referring once again directly and word-for-word to Trakl. Only now, half a century after this early work, have I returned to the art of the great Salzburger, and with a late work, busied myself with the poem "Sebastian im Traum". It deals with nocturnal images of the countryside around Salzburg, of the visions of childhood, and of the morgue, with decay, autumnal reveries, angels and shadows.

The music tried to follow the traces of the poet's words (as someone with a movie camera tries to capture the course of events or as another perhaps takes down the communication of subject matter in shorthand) and it has a deep relationship to Salzburg - predominantly referring to my protracted stay there in the summer of 2003, to the (Catholic) melancholy there, to the Salzburg temperatures and perfumes, to the rustic Baroque, to the biblical, to the wooden crucifix, to the nearness of death, to the moonlight, to Traklish evening sonatas.
In the poetry there is a slighty discernible form of reprise, which also echoes back out of the music, but apart from that, we continually hear different characters, new ones always come and go, appear, shine, and disappear. Occasionally there are touches, overlappings that have something painful about them, which go along with the general tenor of the piece, where light and dark polyphonies collide with one another in a manner that characterizes the style of the entire composition.

Summer 2004
Hans Werner Henze

  • Ensemble
    Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
    Mariss Jansons
    RCO Live:
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