de negende van henze

january 18, 2003.

It is because for some reason or other last week my eye fell on the booklet accompanying 1999's edition of Présences - waiting untouched for four years and as good as new in one of the bookcases in the hall, amidst a bunch of other old programmes and librettos, for an eye-fall like that to happen - that this thursday evening, in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, I heard the French première of Hans Werner Henze's ninth symphonie.

After Beethovens 'Freude' nine became many a symphonie maker's magic number. Or maybe that's just an impression I have. Which has nothing to do with Henze (1926), as he already has ten. Symphonies.
I didn't even know the man had written any symphonies. I do not know a lot about him, really, except that he is a 'still living' German composer. And I think I do have some of his electronic work somewhere on record in my vinyl collection, but that collection is over in Amsterdam, so I cannot check, and I do not have any specific memories of it.

But first the chamber choir of the Danish National Radio interpreted a capella works by the Danish composer Per Nørgård, and world-premiered 'Under en sten', by Thierry Machuel, a Frenchman.
'Under en sten' in fact was the piece I liked best that evening. But maybe that was because of the bad coughing fit that in the middle of it befell one of the ladies in the choir, and my fascination watching her struggle to drive away the demons tickling her throat and meanwhile continue singing.

There was a break, and after the stage had been set for the French National Orchestra and the full Danish National Radio choir, Henze got a - surprise! - French 'Legion of Honor' medal.
Visibly very touched by this little bit of brouha, he did not know what to say. So he did not - say - much more than a 'thank you' and (well, almost) 'Vive la France'.

Then director Kurt Masur thanked him for the ninth symphonie, all went off, Masur came on again, and set the orchestra in motion.

Not so much talking about the music, which sounded eclectic and 20th century modern, with a few interesting passages, but the event - theatre, director, stage, public, players, singers - all of it ensemble struck me as being so very anachronistic ...
I was sitting close to the stage, reading the faces of the players. They are so much 'at work', now, aren't they? This is their job; some of them like what they do, some of them don't. And, boy, that does show! There's the extrovert lady violinist in low-necked evening dress with the big boobies dangling dangerously low, next to a more introvert, somewhat stern looking, lady that chose a simple trousers and jacket for Henze's ninth. There are the younger ones that sway their hair, and often look back at the audience, still curious. A pretty blonde regularly seems to be dreaming away, maybe she is in love, unlike her middle aged neighbour, who looks worried and sad and might very well be sickening for something. Every now and then one of the veterans exchanges a quick joke with a colleague, before quickly turning back to his score, and whipping out the next virtuoso fragment. Faultlessly and soullessly.

And all the time the director stamping and swaying and sweating to keep it together, and force the music out.
No matter what the union says.

[ Vaguely related next entry: meta music; vaguely related earlier entry: the art of sing ]


january 17, 2003.

In the early morning still dark, on my way to catch a commuters train to the western suburbs, I came across two pieces of old recording gear, posed on the pavement, near the flower shop, waiting for the garbage collector that would pass any minute now...

Broken & dusty & greasy & probably been stuck in a "cave" for many years; a TEAC Tascam analog 4-track cassette portastudio and an old Philips reel-to-reel, which looked very much like the one I used as a kid in the early 1970's to put down my very first attempts in sound.

I lingered for a while, instantly repressing a weak urge to pick them up, take them home, and see whether they were still in working order, or at least repairable, say. But well, I did have that train to catch, so I did no more than peek & poke around a bit for tapes that might have been thrown out along with the machines.

But there weren't any.

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