Henning Christiansen – OP​.​176 PENTHESILEA 5CD set


Music for a tragedy/play, Penthesilea (tragedy in 24 scenes), by director Carlo Quartucci, playwright: Heinrich von Kleist. First performance at Teatro Olimpico, Rome, Italy, on November 8, 1986.

This four and a half hour audio work heavily expands on the foundation laid out for Rosenfest in 1984 as featured on the HC4 2LP release. This lavish 5CD set presents the full backing tape prepared for the performances at Teatro Olímpico, Rome in 1986 as directed by Carlo Quartucci (the live recordings of the performances remain elusive to this day).

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. Unheard until now and required listening now.

The full narrative of Kleists 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…

Featuring exceptional performances from Werner Durand (pan-ney, Persian ney and baritone horn with sax mouthpiece), Jan Tilman Schade (violonello and tuba) along with Carla Tatò’s almost develish voice and Ernst Kretzer’s uncanny soundwork this is a heady unusual cocktail of sound.

OP. 176 PENTHESILEA is presented as a deluxe 5CD box set with 32 page full colour booklet featuring writings by Villy Sørensen, Mark Harwood, Werner Durand and Henning Christiansen. The set is all housed in a sturdy slip case with original artwork (by Henning Christiansen, scores and performance photos.

All material copyright The Henning Christiansen Archive with the exception of the watercolour paintings in HC5 copyright Edition Block.


A previously unreleased project of Henning Christiansen, monumental in scope, traversing years, countries and now, formats. The Henning Christiansen Archive is proud to finally present one of the crown jewels of the archive, the masterpiece ‘Penthesilea’ as a 2LP and 5CD set.

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 including Robert Ashley, “Blue” Gene Tyranny etc. 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.  The two releases presented here include a 2 x vinyl LP of the Rosenfest recordings in 1984 and a 5CD set sharing the four and a half hour backing track prepared for the Teatro Olímpico performance in Rome in 1986. Together these two releases make up a substantial overview of one of the most significant works in the entire Christiansen canon.


Original backing tape recorded by Ernst Kretzer in Hamburg 1986.


Henning Christiansen: composition, sounds
Ernst Kretzer: soundwork
Werner Durand: pan-ney, Persian ney and baritone horn with sax mouthpiece
Carla Tatò: voice
Jan Tilman Schade: violonello and tuba

A project by Carlo Quartucci and Carla Tató. Production: La Zattera di Babele S.r.L Rom

All material from: The Henning Christiansen Archive, Edition Block
and Ursula Reuter Christiansen.


All photos taken by Solfrid Olette Mortensen at the Teatro Olímpico, Rome 8.11.86

Tape transfer: Mark Harwood and Andrea Zarza Canova at the British Library

Archivist: Thorbjørn Reuter Christiansen
Producer: Mark Harwood
Executive Producer: Thorbjørn Reuter Christiansen

All material from The Henning Christiansen Archive
All rights reserved The Henning Christiansen Archive

Edition of 500 copies

In stock