Detlev Glanert: Weites Land

CD - The German composer Detlev Glanert served as the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s resident composer from 2011 to 2017. Not only did he write several commissioned works during this time, but the orchestra also gave Dutch premieres of compositions he had written for other occasions, such as Theatrum bestiarum, which dates from 2005, and Weites Land, written in 2013.
cover: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra image: Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest
cover: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra image: Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

Given its Dutch premiere by the orchestra in June 2019, the latter work bears the subtitle Musik mit Brahms, the reason being immediately clear from the first two notes, which sound like the distinctive beginning of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, albeit at a slightly slower tempo. The distinguishing elements of this Brahms symphony, such as the descending third and ascending sixth, also play an important role.

Yet Glanert never seeks to imitate Brahms’s work. With the references he makes to the important intervals in the symphony, the motivic development, the ringing fanfares, references to dance rhythms and moments of unabashed lyricism, Glanert instead creates a modern equivalent of the gestures of the composer who hailed from Hamburg.

It is the balance between tradition and innovation in Brahms’s work which so appeals to Glanert. He says, ‘Brahms used traditional techniques, but wasn’t conservative, even though few people realised this. Of course, he wasn’t a revolutionary, like Wagner. But the way in which Brahms constantly achieves variation would have a great influence on modern music. And certainly when it comes to rhythm, he was innovative.

Rhythm held little interest for Wagner, whose only real focus was harmonic development.’

Glanert, who also happens to hail from Hamburg, has written multiple works in which he makes reference to Brahms, such as the Brahms-Fantasie from 2011–12 and Idyllium, which he wrote for Concertgebouworkest Young in 2019 and in which Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 serves as the point of departure. Weites Land, however, is perhaps the closest to Brahms. ‘There is much northern Germany in it – the Brahmsian smell of marshland and wide skies,’ the composer once said of the work.