He was a composer of German origin. His compositions significantly varied in style, having been influenced by various factors such as serialism, atonality and Italian music. He was born in Gutersloh, Westphalia on July 1st 1926 (Henze, 61). He was the firstborn in his family, with five siblings. Henze became interested in music and art at an early age. His political views, however, caused a rift between him and his father who was a teacher. The father had actively been involved in World War II. He would later, howver, sustain an injury and thereafter work as a teacher in a school at Bellefield. He enrolled Hans in Hitler Youth after falling under the Nazi propaganda (Henderson, 566). The Henzes always discussed current issues. As for Hans, however, he enjoyed listening classical music broadcasts. After some time, his father noted his talent in music. He enrolled him at the state music school of Braunschweig where he studied piano and its theory.
Hans’ father died in battle during the World War II. Following the death, Hans was forced to discontinue his studies. He would later join the army in 1944(Henderson, 567). Unfortunately, the British captured him as a prisoner of war until the end of the war. After he was set free, he sprang back into action in 1945. He played accompaniments in the Bielefeld City Theatre. Under Wolfgang Fortuner, Hans would later continue with his studies at Heidelberg University in 1946. In 1947, he joined the popular Darmstadt New Music Summer School. With an excellent mastery of piano, flute and strings, Hans was widely recognized in the school. He shifted to serial technique in the same year and would work with his twelve-tone technique during the first years of his musical career. In 1948, he composed a choreographic poem, Ballt-Variationen (Henze, 57). In Germany, Hans performed in several places. The DeutscherTheater in Konstanz took him in as the musical assistant where he performed his first opera (Henze, 58). He became a ballet conductor in Wiesbaden. While on the radio, he came up with two operas.
In 1953, Hanze moved to Italy due to Homophobia and Germany’s heated political climate (Henderson, 568). His leftist politics and views concerning homosexuality did not ogre well with the people and he had to flee. His publisher also motivated him to abandon his job as a conductor and instead focus more on composition. It was this incentive that allowed him to leave his country for Italy where he would spend most of his life. He chose to settle on the island of Ischia. On this island, located in the Gulf of Naples, he interacted with composer William Walton and his wife. He also met Ingeborg Bachmann, a poet. Though he initially suffered disappointment, his managed to establish a lasting creative relationship with the poet. The dual composed several operas together including the 1958 Der Prinz von Homburg. Hanze also taught master classes in composition in later years, and became more involved in politics. He died on October 27, 2012 aged 86 years.
Henderson, Robert. “Hans Werner Henze.” The Musical Times, vol. 117, no. 1601, 1976, p. 566.
Henze, Hans. Music and politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Pr., 1982.