The BBC’s annual “Total Immersion” events focus on the work of one composer:you can hole up inside the Barbican for almost 12 hours at a stretch, listening to concerts, viewing documentaries and attending talks.
Hans Werner Henze was a good choice for this year’s Immersion. He’s Germany’s most famous living composer, scandalously underplayed in this country, and his output over a 60-year career is prodigious. But by the end of the main evening concert I wondered whether three hours of Henze really gives you significantly more than 20 minutes. Any of Henze’s pieces, even the little piano works played with such lucidity and tenderness by Huw Watkins, have the effect of a “Total Immersion’’. They overwhelm you with their emotional heat, their burgeoning contrapuntal tendrils, their luxurious revelling in the phraseology of old music (one piece, Cherubino, was like a compendium of Mozartisms, seen through a heat-haze).