What a programme Sir Simon Rattle, soprano Barbara Hannigan and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker have assembled for this Late Night: naughty, sophisticated, sexy and subversive – in the spirit of Stravinsky and Weill, but also very British. William Walton’s 1923 “entertainment” Façade, on texts by his notorious friend and patroness Edith Sitwell, brought him overnight the reputation – deservedly – of an enfant terrible of modern English music.
Such an audacious combination of academic, popular, cabaret and jazz musical idioms was new to London. And performances of this high-spirited entertainment – a gem of musical humour too seldom heard in Germany – still have an astonishing power to set toes tapping, to elicit unexpected smiles and, at attempts at orientation, to twist the listener’s mind into a happily convoluted maze...
No less witty is Paul Hindemith’s roughly contemporaneous Kammermusik No. 1. Chamber musical stuffiness? Hardly! The “Roaring Twenties” invaded Berlin with a vengeance and even cast its spell on a composer like Hindemith. Rounding off this Late Night is Hans Werner Henze’s cantata Being Beauteous on a poem by Arthur Rimbaud. The scoring of the work alone is spectacular (coloratura soprano, harp, four cellos) – even more so, what Henze makes of it. What music...!