Hans Werner Henze is one of the musical giants of our age. The neglect of his music in this country is shameful, and we were reminded of just how big is our loss when the Israel Trio played. Henze's youthful "Kammersonate" last night at the National Gallery.
The influence of Stravinsky is still heard in this 1948 work, particularly in the coolly analytical reading heard in this concert. Yet it is the ravishing voice of the later Henze himself that soars from the elegaic second section. Here that self-consciously romantic song which would become the composer's distinction comes through, exuberantly nostalgic yet always with a slight tonal twist. Early in his career Henze identified the struggle of historical roots and revolutionary change, and more than any other living composer he has succeeded in creating music that is both beautiful and new.
The echoes of Berg's Violin Concerto in the third movement were emphasized lovingly in Menahem Breuer's hands, and it was his violin that tended to stand out in the musical texture. The fourth movement approximates Henze's own "Die Weisse Rose," with Stravinskian accents foiled by pure emotion. The powerful beginning of the fifth movement quickly leads to a patient cello and serene piano figures, as the violin sings an inconclusive melody and the piece ends without ever reaching an answer. It was breathtaking.
The concert included the more familiar Beethoven Trio Op. 70 No. 2 and Dvorak's Trio Op. 65. To these the Israel Trio brought a warmth which would have been welcome in Henze's Trio.