Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake
HANS WERNER HENZE: SIX SONGS FROM THE ARABIAN/THREE AUDEN SONGS
The last of Hans Werner Henze’s Six Songs from the Arabian, an opulent setting of a translation of a Hafiz poem, presents in miniature the conflict at the heart of this set: even as he keeps asking for the hand of his beloved, a lover remains focused on the dark, obscure threats outside the enclosure of their passion. So it is with all the characters of this strange yet deeply serious song cycle, which is recorded here for the first time: the pirates, insects, whores, and animals who inhabit this world find themselves perpetually caught between the fixed poles of pain and beauty.
Henze, Germany’s most important living composer and the author of most of the work’s poetry, crafts music that is dense and harmonically elusive but also evocative. Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake, the cycle’s dedicatees, bring magnificent technical and expressive gifts to their performances. Bostridge is one of the most remarkable singers to come to prominence in years, and his distinctive lyric tenor shines here. Drake deserves equal praise for the ease with which he handles Henze’s difficult accompaniments. Their understanding of this music is total.
The Auden Songs of 1984, which fill out the disc, are smaller and more intimate but present no less of an interpretive challenge. Again, both performers triumph. For anyone interested in the future of classical music, this is one of the most important releases of the year.
Issue Date: July 26 - August 2, 2001