Glanert’s Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch conducted by Markus Stenz

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Glanert
LABELS: RCO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Glanert
WORKS: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch
PERFORMER: David Wilson-Johnson (voice), Aga Mikolaj (soprano), Ursula Hesse von den Steinen (mezzo-soprano), Gerhard Siegel (tenor), Christof Fischesser (bass), Leo van Doeselaar (organ); Netherlands Radio Choir; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam/Markus Stenz
CATALOGUE NO: 17005 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Hieronymus Bosch, creator of some of the most worryingly alluring images of human suffering in Western art, undergoes a trial by music in Detlev Glanert’s Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch. We follow him through a kind of Purgatory, overseen by a rasping, quasi-demonic Archangel Michael, in which his soul is scrutinised for stains of each of the seven deadly sins in turn, and finally received into Paradise. 

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the music – especially in its early stages – is zestfully raucous and grotesque. Settings of texts from the medieval Carmina Buranaat times sound rather like Carl Orff put through a modernist wringer. But as the music speaks of beauty, and later of angelic consolation, Glanert can’t help but fall back on tonal harmony and near-Romantic lyricism. 

The turning point is the dramatic organ solo at the heart of the work, after which mezzo-soprano Ursula Hesse von den Steinen’s depiction of Sloth is so beguiling it almost succeeds in turning the Requiem’s message on its head. Or is the point that in Bosch’s alleged ‘sins’, or at least in his creative transformation of them, we are meant to find something redeeming? 

The performance has power and conviction – you would think this was an established concert work rather than a first performance – and the recording captures it all with atmosphere and clarity. I need to go back and listen to this again. 

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Stephen Johnson