Hans Werner Henze | German composer, 86

Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze
Posted: October 30, 2012

Hans Werner Henze, 86, a prolific German composer who came of age in the Nazi era and grew estranged from his country while gaining renown for richly imaginative operas and orchestral works, died Saturday in Dresden, Germany, where he was due to attend the premiere that evening of a ballet set to one of his scores.

Born into a European generation that wanted to make a fresh start at the end of World War II, Mr. Henze did so without wholly negating the past. Separating himself from the avant-garde, he devoted himself to genres many of his colleagues regarded as outmoded: opera, song, the symphony.

By the early 1960s, Mr. Henze was an international figure with enthusiastic admirers in the United States. His Fifth Symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, which gave the work's premiere in 1963, with Leonard Bernstein conducting.

His music expressed passionate but mixed feelings about his German heritage. His Nazi-era childhood alone would have produced, at the least, ambivalence about that heritage, but his homosexuality only further estranged him.

As he grew older, the matter of Germany became increasingly important to his music. Writing for the Berlin Philharmonic in 1997, he made his Ninth a choral symphony - and a drama - telling a story of desperation and hope set during the Nazi epoch.

The crowning work of Mr. Henze's late period is "Elogium Musicum" for choir and orchestra (2008), which he wrote in memory of Fausto Moroni, his companion of four decades, who died in 2007.

- N.Y. Times News Service

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