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New Ears for New Music

Translated by Kenneth Chalmers

Constantin Floros

20th-century music is characterized by a bewildering multitude of trends and movements. Often several movements co-exist in contradiction to each other, in a reflection of the century’s intellectual currents and social and political changes, and the reactions they prompted. In this book, renowned musicologist and author Constantin Floros provides a survey of the different styles and tendencies in new music, presenting the most important composers from Schoenberg to Rihm in a series of fluent and readable essays that will appeal to connoisseurs and non-specialists alike. For Floros, music and biography are inseparable, and here he puts music in the context of the social and psychological background of its time.
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And Always for a Better World – Approaches to Hans Werner Henze

Extract

“For it is time to acknowledge the voice of humanity, the voice of a captured creature that is not quite capable of speaking its suffering, nor singing the measures of its heights and depths.”INGEBORG BACHMANN1

In his autobiography, Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012) gives a rather cursory account of his experiences with the Darmstadt avant-garde in the 1950s. In the early summer of 1955 he, together with Boulez and Maderna, was invited to give a course in composition at Darmstadt. He was not at all amused – as he wrote – that young composers who chose to “express themselves in a pre-Webern musical idiom” would not even be asked to attend.2 By then at the latest he was aware that he no longer belonged, if indeed he ever had, and he was happy to make the decision never to return to Darmstadt. Then, in October 1957, his Nachtstücke und Arien was given its first performance in Donaueschingen, and he was taken aback to see after only the first few bars, Boulez, Nono and Stockhausen noisily leaving their seats and the hall.3 Even as a young man, Henze had the feeling that he “had no travelling companions”.4 He was aware that he had to pursue his artistic path alone, and felt that he knew precisely what his goal was.

Henze could not and would not conform: his defining characteristics were self-reliance and independence, and every kind of dogmatism was alien to him. For a long time he...

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