1990 Orpheus Behind The Wire ­ Hans Werner Henze

A haunting portrait of the composer Hans Werner Henze, who grew up in the Hitler Youth movement, and later became a leading German Revolutionary.

Sheridan Morley:The Times 12th February 1990
Tony Knox's South Bank Show film about the life and work of Hans Werner Henze was a model of how music documentaries can best be made to link to a score of scores to a 60 year biography . . . . Knox managed to suggest Henze's restless, radical political awareness . . . while also indicating the sheer sensualism of those musical commentaries.

John Lyttle: City Limits: 8-15 Feb. 1990:
Alive with smoke, unexpected camera angles, extreme close-ups and the most compelling types of archive footage, Tony Knox's intimately etched profile of composer Hans Werner Henze highlights the South Bank Show's too seldom knack for rendering the relatively little known immediately understandable. It's a dark, flowing film, festooned with resonant frames. Henze recalls his childhood in the Hitler Youth and how his father and his drunken cronies could be heard from the heart of the forest singing of spilled Jewish blood. The camera slips in so close you can practically see the thoughts arising. Scenes of Nazi rallies play across his frozen face as he gazes at the screen in front or him - a screen which enlarges and fleshes out his words.

Martin Hoyle: Time Out: 8 - 15 Feb. 1990 :

This beautifully shot study of the most successful living opera composer concentrates on the man, not the music..

Hugh Hebert: The Guardian: 12 February, 1990 :

Tony Knox's Orpheus Behind The Wire is an assured and satisfying resolution of how to make a film not just about music, but about the ideas of music. What emerges from this South Bank Show is the essential role of idea, observation, argument within the music. Simon Rattle may be right about the aching lyricism that tries to get out from under the violence and dislocation of the surface - and in what we heard here , that comes through strongly. Knox shows us something else, though - a composer for years under a sense of collective guilt, and a man isolated in many successive ways, alone with his demon.

Daily Telegraph :

...this cleverly filmed portrait by Tony Knox.

Evening Standard 9 February 1990 :

An edition that can be enthusiastically recommended, particularly to those music loves whose knowledge of Hans Werner Henze is sketchy and who thoughtlessly consign him to the same pigeon-holes as Stockhausen. The blend of Henze's music from Orpheus Behind the Wire and scenes from the Nazi Germany in which he grew up launch the film with hypnotic power, though Henze himself was scarcely less impressive.

 

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