Vocal pieces Concert 2009

Sacrifice (Opfergang - Immolazione)

for singers, instrumentalists, and piano concertante

dramatic poem by Franz Werfel
composed by Hans Werner Henze

Commissioned by Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma

Period of composition 2008-09
Duration 45 minutes

World premiere

World premiere January 10th, 2010

Rom · Parco della Musica · Sala Santa Cecilia

Tenor Ian Bostridge (The White and Well-Groomed Dog)
Bassbaritone Sir John Tomlinson (The Stranger)
Baritone Roberto Valentini (The Police Inspector)
Vocal quartet of the Coro di Santa Cecilia
Sir Antonio Pappano
Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Conductor Sir Antonio Pappano


At the edge of a city, at midnight, a stray dog from what was evidently a good home encounters a distraught man on the run. It emerges from the latter’s monologues that he has survived a difficult and humiliating period that is none the less shrouded in obscurity. He suffers unspeakably, and everything he says tells of bitterness, loneliness and distress. But we never discover the actual reasons for his pain, only that those reasons still exist. ?Pursued by a posse of policemen, the stranger kills the little dog in his distress and panic. A murderer, he now sinks appreciably from one qualitative level to another. On the one hand, the music ascends (for the ascension of our little dog), while on the other it descends into the unfathomable depths of the stranger’s soul.

Franz Werfel makes it possible for his reader (and also for me, the composer) to read his poem on various levels. I have wanted to set his dramatic poem’ The Sacrifice to music since the early fifties. This dream has now come true thanks to a commission from the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Hans Werner Henze


The White and Well-Groomed Dog Tenor
The StrangerBassbariton
The Police Inspector Bariton
Vocal Quartet (also Policemen)2 Tenors
2 Basses


2 Flutes1° doubling Piccolo
2° doubling Piccolo and Alto Flute
2 Clarinets1° doubling Soprano Saxophone
2° doubling Bass Clarinet
2 Oboes2° doubling Cor Anglais
2 Bassoons2° auch Kontrafagott
2 Trumpets
2 Horns
Wagner Tuba
2 Trombones1° Alto
2° Tenor-Bass
Percussion(4 players)
Large Gong
Large Bongo
5 Tom-toms
II4 China Gongs
Large Tam-tam
Large Bongo
Small Suspended Cymbal
Side Drum
2 Chinese Cymbals (small, large)
2 Chinese Cymbals (small, large)
Side Drum
Large Suspended Cymbal
Large Tam-tam
Large Bongo
IV Marimba
Side Drum
Bass Drum
Large Bongo
Large Tom-tom
Large Chinese Cymbal
Large Gong