Meeting Detlev Glanert

I first met Detlev Glanert in 2010, when I gave the first performance of his orchestration of Schubert’s Einsamkeit (D620). It had been commissioned for me and the Halle Orchestra to perform under the baton of Markus Stenz alongside Mahler’s Fourth Symphony in Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

At the time, I remember being pretty daunted to meet a composer! I am in awe of anyone who can create music. But Detlev is such a kind and generous soul that I immediately felt at ease. He and Markus are great company, and it was a joy to go for a curry with them and talk about Schubert (also Detlev’s resemblance to Franz!), music, and life in general. But apart from the social side…

Einsamkeit has a very special place in Schubert’s catalogue. At nearly 20 minutes long, and through-composed rather than strophic, it is a deeply-felt journey through Johann Mayrhofer’s evocative text, which closes: ‘The youth’s longing for solitude becomes the old man’s portion, and a life rough and precarious has yet led to happiness.’ *

Detlev’s version has a wonderful way of enriching the music by using the colours available with an orchestra, but never seeking to impose his own voice on Schubert’s or to be intrusive. It provides a new way for us to hear this extraordinary work, and hopefully brings it to a wider audience. I was very much looking forward to performing Einsamkeit again in August 2020 with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, but of course, that project had to be cancelled in light of the pandemic. I hope it will happen in the future.

This manner of lending us new ears is also how Detlev has approached Purcell’s ‘Music for a While’. He has chosen to retain the vocal line and harmony largely as originally composed. His expression comes through a stretching of the range of the piano part, through new rhythmic figures, and new articulation, which point the words subtly but clearly. It is recognisably the song we know and love, given new life in a delicate way. I find it intimate and telling of the way this last year has been for many of us. It has a sense of yearning, and I find myself truly wanting to believe that music can indeed beguile all our cares.

If you don’t know Detlev’s music, I’d love to point you in the direction of a few pieces that I think are really worth you exploring:

This promotional clip for his opera of 2019 ‘Oceane’ gives a sense of the grandeur of his writing. It’s in German, but do watch it, even if you don’t speak the language! It looks and sounds fabulous!

I wish I’d had an opportunity to see this live – it looks incredibly powerful. And what a gorgeous looking production from Robert Carson. There’s a recording available, too.

There’s another video (in English) currently available here which I think gives a brilliant insight into how Detlev developed his craft. It’s great to hear him talking about his path, his work, and his thoughts on writing music. In fact, it just makes me want to go and hear more!

*translation Emily Ezust

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