Bohemian Fifths
Last updated: 17.12.19
Printed: 1999 Author: Hans Werner Henze
Publisher: Princeton Univiversity Press ISBN: 0691006830
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Hardcover - 520 pages (February 1, 1999) Usually ships within 2-3 days.
Amazon Review
It comes as no surprise that Hans Werner Henze's autobiography, like his music, is alternately elegant, dense, and humorous, with a clear love of history and classical beauty. Henze covers both his life and work through 1995; readers may find themselves looking back to Artur Rubinstein's My Young Years to find a musician who has written an autobiography with as much style. Of special interest is Henze's first detailed public comment on the events surrounding the notorious canceled premiere of Das Floss der Medusa. There is also a long sequence of diary entries from his second visit to Cuba. The diary format effectively conveys his initial excitement in the country, which clearly sets off his later disillusionment with Castro. Anecdotes about almost all of Henze's music abound, but the most interesting comments are about music in general--why he hates cello sonatas, why he likes to write for the guitar, why electronic music is unsuitable for ballet. Henze writes beautifully about Mozart ("the link between artistry and simplicity"), Mahler, William Walton, and the Naples debut of Maria Callas. There is a straightforward description of how he composes and a section describing the philosophy behind his festival at Montepulciano. Stewart Spencer's translation is everywhere elegant. In Wiesbaden, we read, one finds "only old ladies with equally ancient hats and poodles." Readers who have come to Henze's music via the Grammy-nominated new recording of the ballet Undine will find helpful information on that work, both about the premiere production and a major revival in 1998.
--William R. Braun

Octavio Roca, San Francisco Chronicle
Music, much like life, is bound by rules that cry out to be broken. Henze has long followed his instincts and ensured that the only predictable element in his music is surprise: He is eclectic, iconoclastic, never a slave to musical fashion and anything but boring. A musical maverick, he has been a political and sexual outsider as well. At his best, against the grain, he has defied dogma and created works in every musical genre that will live and give pleasure well into the next century.