German composer Hans Werner Henze dies at 86

GEIR MOULSON Associated Press Published:

BERLIN (AP) -- German composer Hans Werner Henze, whose prolific and wide-ranging work included a wealth of operas and 10 symphonies, died Saturday, his publisher said. He was 86.

Henze died in the eastern German city of Dresden, longstanding publisher Schott Music said in a statement, calling him "one of the most important and influential composers of our time." It didn't disclose the cause of death.

Henze's work over the decades straddled musical genres. He composed stage works, symphonies, concertos, chamber works and a requiem, and once said that "many things wander from the concert hall to the stage and vice versa."

His operas ranged from the 1950s "Ein Landarzt" ("A Country Doctor"), based on a story by Franz Kafka, to "L'Upupa," written in 2002 and the only opera for which Henze wrote his own libretto. Other works included the musical dramas "Elegy for Young Lovers" and "The Bassarids," and the oratorio "The Raft of the Medusa" -- dedicated to the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

The Semperoper opera house in Dresden recently kicked off a tribute to Henze with a performance of his antiwar drama "We come to the River," produced in collaboration with writer Edward Bond and first performed in London in 1976.

Henze was born July 1, 1926 in Guetersloh in western Germany and grew up as the Nazis tightened their grip on the country. After studying and starting his career in music and theater in West Germany, he left the country in 1953 and went to live in Italy.

Alongside his operas, Henze was known for his symphonies, among them "Sinfonia N. 9," finished in 1997 -- a choral symphony based on Anna Seghers' novel "The Seventh Cross" that reflected his anti-fascist convictions.

His final symphony, "Sinfonia No. 10," completed in 2000, was premiered by Sir Simon Rattle with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

As well as composing, Henze took teaching assignments in Austria, the U.S., Cuba and Germany. He served as composer-in-residence at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, and at the Berlin Philharmonic, Schott Music said.

Henze founded the Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte festival and summer school in Montepulciano, Italy, in 1976.

Information on survivors and funeral arrangements was not immediately available.