Something historic this week. A concert from the 1963 Vienna Festival featuring the Berlin Radio Symphony, conducted by composer Hans Werner Henze with Wolfgang Schneiderhan, violin in a program of music by Henze.
One of the more striking and visible composers of the 20th century, Henze composed in a wide spectrum of styles. Embracing the principles of Atonality and Serialism as well as the music of Stravinsky and World Music, he also wrote in the traditional school of German composition. So he was difficult to pin down and it was nearly impossible to turn your nose up at him, because his music was so wide and varied. And also, it should be noted, Hans Werner Henze was an extraordinarily gifted conductor. In fact, he first gained his reputation, not as a composer, but a conductor of Baroque Music right after World War 2, when he began his career in 1946.
All that said, if you aren’t used to music of the 2nd half of the 20th century, it could be a little jarring for you. But trust me, it’s not bad at all. The program consists of three works; Antifone, written in 1960, his violin concerto from 1947 and Symphony Number 5 from 1962, and I think (but I’m not certain) this is one of the first performances of the work.
Joining him is the legendary German violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan in the First Violin Concerto. Schneiderhan had a long and illustrious career from the late 1920s up until his death in 2002. He replaced the violinist Georg Kulenkampf after his death, as part of the Fischer/Mainardi/Scheiderhan Trio (sometimes referred to as “the million dollar trio”). He collaborated with a wide range of artists, and was concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic during what many considered its most controversial and troubled period, from 1937-1951. In addition, he had a close association with Henze and premiered a number of his works over the years.
So a historic pairing and a historic concert. Maybe not as soothing as some would like, but never boring.