OP0385. DIE JUNGE LORD (Hans Werner Henze), recorded 1966, w. Christoph von Dohnanyi Cond. Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin & Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin & Schöneberger Sängerknaben Ensemble; Barry McDaniel, Loren Driscoll, Edith Mathis, Günther Treptow, etc. [Creator Cast, 7 April 1965]. (Germany) 2-DG 445 248, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 028944524826
“The 'young Lord' is an ape, disguised as an English aristocrat and introduced into a smug early-nineteenth-century German community to teach it a few basic lessons about the difference between acceptable and unacceptable social behaviour. This ape is no holy fool; but nor does the plot permit Henze to treat him like the monosyllabic cretin of Schnittke's recent parable of Marxist fellow-travelling, LIFE WITH AN IDIOT. This ape ultimately regresses from artificial human eloquence to crude animal violence, and the inherent ambiguity is neatly encapsulated in the fact that the ape's first utterances, marked in the score as 'screams', come across in this performance as a conventional, melancholy vocalise. Even before he starts singing in words this is a very musical ape, but it is his misery at being forced to assume human attributes that comes to the fore, even more than his ability to make social conventions look hollow.
It is the slightness rather than the implausibility of the parable that makes the enterprise so risky. Henze is a natural elaborator, capable of burying any story's broad satire under a welter of allusion and over-composition. His score is certainly uneven, with the pretty, bland love music of Act 1 a low point. But the coda of that act (for percussion) foreshadows the menace of the politicized Henze (the ending of THE RAFT OF THE MEDUSA - 1968) and the entire final scene, starting with an expansive aria for the soprano lead, and building into a complex ensemble of crisis and explanation, generates the powerful symphonic depth of Henze at his considerable best. The moment where the ape interrupts Luise's meditation is genuinely frightening, and even the cardboard cut-out civic dignitaries come to life in the ensuing mayhem.
Henze is impressively served here by the young Christoph von Dohnanyi who keeps the climaxes in view without starving local details of musical point. The recording sounds dry, with a light bass and narrow dynamic range, but the singers profit from their experience of the opera on stage to give full weight to the expressive shape of Henze's long lines. In a performance a fraction less exuberant than this DER JUNGE LORD could seem the most leaden of moralities, a misguided attempt to provide a modern but not merely neo-classical equivalent to Donizetti and Rossini. Maybe Brecht and Weill would have done it better; but even when one longs for Henze to get a move on, one can respect the energy and richness of his invention. This, then, is a classic reissue.'
- Arnold Whittall, GRAMOPHONE, Sept., 1994