9th December 2019
Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch review: Glanert paints a thrilling canvas with BBC Symphony Orchestra
Detlev Glanert’s Requiem For Hieronymus Bosch boasts a remarkable sonic canvas on a scale comparable to that of the Renaissance master, on whose The Last Judgment triptych it is based. The texts are from the Latin Mass for the Dead and the medieval anthology Carmina Burana, and the result is a vast panoramic choral work that matches Bosch’s surreal imagination with its own astounding invention.
From the standard requiem, Glanert offers a Dies Irae to rival Verdi’s in ferocity, a Pie Jesu as poignant as Fauré’s and a Sanctus that pulsates with spiritual acclamation and lowlife depiction alike. Of the Seven Deadly Sins, gluttony is represented by a Rabelaisian slow tango, while lust is an all-male Ukrainian hopak. The latter is followed by a rapturous female plea for peace in the Agnus Dei.
Some neat faux-Renaissance touches of Glanert’s were prefigured in a sequence of music by Ockeghem, De la Rue and Crecquillon, idiomatically delivered by the BBC Singers under Andrew Griffiths.
For the performance of the Requiem itself, with five first-rate soloists (Aga Mikolaj, Christa Mayer, Norbert Ernst, Albert Pesendorfer and David Wilson-Johnson) plus impressive BBC choral and orchestral forces all under Semyon Bychkov, no praise could be too high. Meticulously prepared, it was thrilling, moving and appropriately apocalyptic. The climax of a total immersion day devoted to Glanert, it’s the kind of thing that perhaps only the BBC could do.