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Bohemian Fifths

Henze, Hans Werner

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ISBN 10: 0691006830 / ISBN 13: 9780691006833
Published by Princeton University Press
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Broad Street Books (Branchville, NJ, U.S.A.)

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0691006830 Hardcover with dust jacket. Book is in very nice condition, text is unmarked and pages are tight. Bookseller Inventory # 42028

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Bohemian Fifths

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

About this title


Hans Werner Henze is one of the world's leading composers. His autobiography is frank, impassioned, and alive with memorable images and characters and graphic accounts of the creative process and performances of his music.

Henze's unhappy childhood during the onset of Fascism found release in music, which, in spite of the disruption of the war, became the center of his life. He studied composition but began to make a career as a ballet conductor, until his creativity found expression in music that, by the early 1950s, had begun to distance itself from the fashionable but dogmatic rules of serialism in favor of his own individualistic conception of beauty. In both the political and sexual spheres, Hans Werner Henze is an outsider whose utopian dreams of a humane communism have always had to contend with reality. In musical and cultural matters, however, he is one of the best-connected and most influential figures of the postwar era and his autobiography brims with personal stories and observations of such luminaries as Igor Stravinsky, W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Ingeborg Bachmann, Luchino Visconti, and Hans Magnus Enzensberg. A true cosmopolitan, he is happiest living in Italy, where his innate lyricism has found a natural home.

"Bohemian fifths" are intervals that were played by Bohemian horn players, and which, according to Baroque and Classical rules, were proscribed. Henze's writing protests the lack of freedom that such a prohibition implies, both in music and in life.

Originally published in 1999.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.


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

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