Project Description


Henze Digital (HenDi)
Hans Werner Henze’s artistic network

Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012) is considered one of the most important contemporary German opera composers as well as “the most colourful figures in the history of musical art after the Second World War” (Petersen 1988). In autobiographical writings and interviews, in addition to the political-humanitarian and pedagogical dimensions of his works, he repeatedly stated that he understood music as a language for communicating with the audience. Being understood was an essential concern for him, committed to the “historical topos of the linguistic nature of music” (Tumat/Zywietz 2019). His literary work, largely serving to explain his music, also bears eloquent witness to the fact.

Many of his literary texts are available in published form, but the letters Henze exchanged with prominent artistic personalities of the 20th century are, with a few exceptions, so far unpublished. Yet it is precisely these letters that provide unknown source material on the genesis of Henze’s work and valuable insights into the performance practice not only of Henze’s work in particular but also of the entire history of music since the end of World War II.

In its first phase (2021-2024), the DFG project “Henze Digital” will focus on the correspondence with librettists (Wystan Hugh Auden/Chester Kallman, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Grete Weil/Walter Jokisch, Friedrich Hitzer), as well as Miguel Barnet as the author of important source texts and with Henze’s patron and commissioner Paul Sacher. While the exchange of letters with Henze’s librettists is mainly about artistic and aesthetic debates, for example about the significance of music and language or political controversies about the chosen subjects, the extensive correspondence with Paul Sacher, the commissioner, conductor of premières and dedicatee of important works by Henze, records performances with a rich supplementary apparatus of programme notes and reviews and gives an account of the content of emerging works.

The letters will be published digitally based on transcriptions according to the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and its correspondence-specific mark-up forms. The web design and functionality is based on the Carl Maria von Weber Complete Edition (WeGA-WebApp ). The aim is to create a scientifically annotated edition according to historical-critical standards, which will be made available in open access (including the source texts), feed its metadata into letter databases such as correspSearch and provide user-oriented indexing of the material through various functions for filtering, searching and linking work-, person- or topic-related data. For this purpose, metadata, textual aspects and works mentioned in letters are systematically labelled, critically annotated, links to standards data sets such as the GND (Gemeinsame Normdatei or Werk-Normdatei) are created and indices (persons, places, works, correspondence-specific chronology) will be generated.

Translation: Michael Kerstan


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