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Hans Werner Henze

Publisher: Chester Music

Elogium Musicum (2008)
commissioned by Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Text Writer
Franco Serpa
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
20 Minutes
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Programme Note
Hans Werner Henze Elogium Musicum (2008)
This „eulogy“ is by way of an obituary filled with memories and mementos, of sadness, loss and sorrow. A friendship that lasted for almost half a century is destroyed, dead and will not come again. But it lives on in thoughts and affectionate feelings. In this unfamiliar and empty world in which I find myself, it is not easy, nor perhaps possible, to cope, even undesirable to do so. Yet my thoughts and feelings constantly return to a relationship that was unique.

In the four movements of this song of praise, to poems by Franco Serpa, in which human voices blend with instrumental sonorities, the one maintaining the movement of the other, spectral and many-formed images of people and occasions arise, from near and far, from the broad spectrum of mankind as well as the mysterious realm of the animal kingdom.

The sun casts its light all around, illuminating everything: the joys of conversation, the love of life, the wonders of nature; in all, the beauties and terrors of the world.

© Hans Werner Henze

English translation of original Latin text (for the Latin text see below):
Elogium Musicum
In praise of a best beloved now far away

I The Falcon

Do you weep?
Know this: there were once two falcons
Shining birds of fleetest force
They are etched on my memory.
I remember, oh I remember, that saddest of days.
One of them was struck down by outrageous fortune
Shot through, shred to pieces,
Thrown down from high heaven
With wings spread, unwillingly, fan-like,
Red, cold, lifeless, he crashed into the dark sand.
The other flew off, bereaved, into the night without you.

II The Night

I am done for!
A voice sounds out with a fearful cry, with a shriek of dread …
Fausto Ubaldo,
You, the comeliest of all from the mansions of legend,
Where are you now? To whom have you departed?

Vultures, dark crows, black menacing monsters raucously cawing.
The earth shudders with terror,
The poplar tree trembles like silver lilies.
Eruptions, ghastly ruination, nocturnal groaning,
The world is laid waste,
Irretrievably wasted,
Unyielding, blind.

III The Crickets

The sun flames. The summer blazes. The crickets sing.

Chorus of women constantly and continuously right to the end
They begin softly, later their voices become agitated.

Zika Zika Zaus and Strauss
Sinus triste trillo schrillo

Singen scherzen schreien zetern zucken Zimt …
[German: They sing, they joke, they shout, they clamour, they start, all Nonsense]

Chorus of men

You, dear maidens, now lend us your ears,
Our song sounds out, telling of delightful deeds:
Indeed we will lay you bare, we will promise you pleasures
Thus will we change you into a thousand shining spirits.

On and on they rattle, buzzing their way to vexation and loathsome unbearable tedium

Fausto speaks to the crickets
Fausto, the king of trees and flowers, the king of the woods
In a deep voice he utters one word: BASTA! [Enough!]

Suddenly there is silence, perfect peace.

IV Adagio

Sweet tenderness
The sight of young men, beautiful as sacred images, eyes of opal, black she-panthers,
A secret tranquil retreat,
Religious repose covers the whole world and the light of day and the new brilliancy of the sun,
Where eagles fly, and larks and swallows
Always chanting many thanksgivings, in joys, in sins.
God praises us, and we praise God, we give thanks to God
Who gives us grace.

Orignal Latin text by Franco Serpa:

Elogium Musicum
amatissimi amici nunc remoti

I. Accipiter

Luges tu?
Scis adhuc, erant olim accipitres duo,
alites vi celerrima nitidi.
Eorum memoria me tenet.
tristissimam diem memini.
Alter ob infestum fatum ictus est,
transfictus, laceratus,
caelo deiectus ab alto.
Passis sicut flabellis alis
in arenam concidit atram,
ruber, frigidus, exanimis.
Alter solus evolavit in noctem,
sine te, orbatus.

II. Nox

Vae mihi ! Vox sonantior
ploratu pavoris, eiulatu horroris...
Fausto Ubaldo,
omnium pulcherrime
a fabularum sedibus,
ubi nunc es? quo gentium abisti?
Vultures, fuscae cornices,
atrae beluae, stridentes et minaciter truces.
Tremit metu terra,
tremula populus sicut argentea lilia,
eruptiones, ruinae atroces, nocturni stridores,
desertus est mundus,
infinite desertus,
durus, caecus.

III. Cicadae

Sol fulget, flagrat aestas, cantant cicadae,
Chorus mulierum
constanter et continue usque ad finem, submisse incipiunt, postea voces concitant
Zika, zika, Zaus et Strauss,
Sinus triste trillo schrillo
singen scherzen schreien zetern zucken Zimt

Chorus virorum
Vos, puellae carae, nunc nobis aures date,
nostrum carmen personat, gest(a) amoena narrans:

sane vos nudabimus, grata pollicemur,
mill(e) in claros spiritus sic vos convertemus.

usque ad molestiam, ad intolerabile tædium strident, strepunt.

Ad cicadam loquitur Fausto,
Fausto, rex arborum et florum, rex silvarum,
gravi voce,
unum verbum dicit: BASTA!
Subita silentia, pax perfecta.

IV. Adagio

Suavis teneritudo,
visio puerorum, qui pulchri sunt sicut sacrae effigies, oculi ex opalo, nigrae pardales,
recessus abditus quietus,
religiosa quies convestit totum mundum, lucem diei, solis novam claritatem,
qua aquilae volitant, alaudae, hirundines,
multum canentes multas grates, in gaudiis, in peccatis.
Deus nos laudat et nos Deum, Deo gratias agimus,
qui nobis gratiam persolvit.

Preview the score:

Henze is so complete a musician, such an embodiment of the last century’s crises (artistic and political), that when one work is heard you also hear the seeds of the rest. He’s the organic composer par excellence. His recent Elogium musicum, a blazingly personal work of homage and memorial. Impossible not to be moved by his raw response to the death of his long-time partner Fausto Moroni, or the memory trail of musical heroes, predominantly Stravinsky. Behind the orchestra, the BBC Symphony Chorus mourned, raged, and gave praise. So did we, in front.
Geoff Brown, The Times,19/01/2010
Setting four specially written Latin poems by Franco Serpa, Elogium is a densely packed, 20-minute choral work that moves from austere mourning through rage and fond memory to a final radiant vision of acceptance. Some of the choral writing (delivered by the excellent BBC Symphony Chorus) has a Stravinsky-like austerity to it – his ­Canticum Sacrum as much as Oedipus Rex – but as in other recent Henze works, the orchestral textures, ­especially the prominent use of a solo saxophone, evoke the world of Alban Berg more than anyone else. It's a beguiling score, ­beautifully ­presented by Knussen and the BBCSO, and a reminder that there is so much of Henze's ­output that we hear too rarely.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,19/01/2010
Despite being a product of Henze's old age, this Stravinskyan cantata is no sentimental farewell. After a first half dominated by a barren lament and a Dies irae -like blast of bitterness, the second half celebrates mankind's kinship with nature and ends with a pantheistic Mass of Life.
Andrew Clark, The Financial Times,19/01/2010
Elogium Musicum, dedicated to and written for his late partner of 50 years, Fausto Moroni, ended the evening on a note of almost unbearable rawness and intensity. At times, Henze's story-telling can careen into tragically naive political territory or be swallowed up too much by personal vortices, but it never ceases to engage.
Igor Toronyi-Lalic, The Arts Desk,17/01/2010
“Adagio” is written over the final poem: “A holy peace enfolds the entire world”. The brightness of day, glorious brilliance of the sun, where eagles, larks and swallows fly.” The expressive sounds – from the most tender intimations to the most severe eruptions – that Henze continuously conjured up in new combinations for this and for the entirety of the nearly 25-minute work may well be called his Opus summum. Not only are major and minor sounds used imaginatively but the most brusque, dissonant agglomerations and manifold intermediate levels are created. Everything that fascinated less than one year ago with the première of the opera “Phaedra” by the Staatsoper Berlin reaches its pinnacle in this composition vivified by Riccardo Chailly for the Gewandshaus Orchestra Leipzig and the MDR Radio Choir in a more concentrated space.
Werner Wolf, Neues Deutschland,16/10/2008
The music begins with an elegiac string quartet, escalates into a dramatic desperate and navigates to the end of the movement on the great emptiness of a chord fading away into a pianissimo. The tone of the choir leads one to suspect how hard it must have been for Henze to formulate his experience into music. With a thunderous decrescendo of the bass drum before the leaden line “I remember a saddest day”, he gives expression to the hollow sensation and negative energy he had to fight with. Then in the second movement Nox, umbral bird beings ominously raise their leading tones, and the world lies in sharp dissonance “deserted, cruel, blind”. The way Henze managed to merge private suffering with art in this work is inconceivable. Even in his dark moments, he transforms dreams into beauty the way he always has. The melodic gestures of memory with which he traces the amatissimi amici nunc remoti (“the very beloved friend who is now far away”) are perfect in form. Using only sparse lines, his hand effortlessly makes the atmosphere dazzle. And following the darkness of night – typical Henze – comes southern summer light. Here one senses Henze’s old impulse yet again, the celebration of life in all its colour as it triumphs over suffering. The agnostic lets the god Dionysus emerge.
Claus Spahn, Die Zeit,08/10/2008
A wonderfully competent composure predominates, an “ego-tone” here too, that in Beethoven’s terms seems to come directly “from the heart” and speak directly “to the heart”. A substantial portion of this poise can be credited to the text, written in Latin by Franco Serpa according to Henze’s clearly detailed specifications and motifs. The clever device of using Latin prevents the depicted subject matter from becoming too direct and voyeuristic and endows the poetic metaphors with a quality of timelessness. The parable of the two falcons, one of which fate takes from the sky, consequently becomes – through a threnodic opening movement – an analogy for transience, loss and separation. In Henze’s score, the sounds of orchestra and choir first remain pure and unmixed. Thus the introductory string movement evokes a passionate elegiac sound, reminiscent of the expressionism of Mahler and Alban Berg. It is not until the more eventful middle portion depicting the fall of the falcon, that the whole is employed together. However, the arrangement and the instrumentation are consistently handled with an economy and a pointed clarity that reminds one of Stravinsky or the Verdi of the “Quattro Pezzi sacri” – an association that arises repeatedly in the course of the work. With a serenity that probably comes only with age, Henze allows his work to end with a life-affirming hymn, with all the light and darkness that there is and was. Even the traditional ”deo gratias agimus“ and the idea of a higher grace are included as a matter of course. This is the way it must sound when a great artist has made his peace with himself and the world.
Christian Wildhagen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,08/10/2008
Musical sounds from a composer whose entire doings are fraught with the desire for communication and empathy; a music that wants to deal directly with life, over and above every aesthetic artistic coherency. Henze once called his music, musica impura, “impure” music that interferes, enriched with reality. Henze did not compose a morbid, threatening requiem here, but a brightening succession of four vivid compositional works, of natural images and thought images, full of contrasting emotions, including reminders of the serenity of life, of “sunlight” and “happiness”.
Wolfgang Schreiber, Süddeutsche Zeitung,06/10/2008
Even in technique, the work of this great, 82-year-old composer reflects the gentle optimism he turns toward the future. “While I composed, I had only the blank page before me. I never looked back at what I had previously written.” This four movement work is music composed from a gut feeling, or better yet, from the heart. The choir sings of humans. The orchestra tells of the world in which they live, of their determining fate. [...] Both are treated strictly separately; they are however closely dovetailed by the brilliant beauty of Henze’s movement, which aims at clarity and makes unreserved use of the tradition from which Henze never really broke. [...] With this moving première, music history is finally being written in Leipzig once again, rather than just being read.
Peter Korfmacher, Leipziger Volkszeitung,04/10/2008
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