Boomkat Product Review:
A previously unreleased project of Henning Christiansen, monumental in scope, traversing years and countries.
"Pentheseila is one of the most ambitious works in the entire Henning Christiansen oeuvre. A large-scale work from the mid eighties based on the play of the same name by Heinrich von Kleist (1808). Both Henning and his widow, Ursula Reuter Christiansen, were enthusiastic about Kleist’s text, both making works around the themes within this portent text.
Henning Christiansen first developed a work around this text for the Rosenfest festival performed in Berlin in 1984. Rosenfest was curated by René Block and featured a variety of composers presenting works in response to Kleist’s work. Henning formulated a composition utilising tape, field recordings, voice, soprano, and violoncello alongside the home made instruments of Werner Durand. The live presentation was then expanded upon and first performed two years later at Teatro Olímpico, Rome on the 8th November 1986 as directed by Carlo Quartucci.
This four and a half hour audio work heavily expands on the foundation laid out for Rosenfest in 1984. The most ambitious project Henning undertook, the Penthesilea project is also one of the most successful as it explores the numerous experiments and techniques he had developed throughout his creative life culminating in this ambitious and significant work.
The full narrative of Kleist's text unfolds as an audio excursion for the mind to wander. An audiobook presented as sound. The field recordings featured in Rosenfest recordings are featured alongside a wealth of new sonic environments. Horses trot, a boxing match is treated with electronics creating an otherworldly atmosphere. In the piece ‘XIII XIV’ we encounter moments of Henning’s early classical works only to subside in a valley of gentle machines clacking amongst a whispering ghost melody. Elsewhere a thumping proto-techno beat tramples on the once trampled snow we heard in the Rosenfest recordings, a rustic squeak acts as a horn solo, onwards, the wind gets fiercer, the narrative intensifies."