A familiar feel to the un­known

Detlev Glan­ert’s Dou­ble Con­certo has a timely res­o­nance, finds Rowena Smith

The Herald - Arts - - Arts -

Back in 2002 a new fund was set up to help up-and-com­ing mu­si­cians de­velop their in­ter­na­tional ca­reers. While many such or­gan­i­sa­tions have pre­cise stip­u­la­tions about what the cho­sen can­di­dates can and can’t do with their money, the Bor­letti-Buitoni Trust is rather dif­fer­ent. Its awards can be used to­wards what­ever is felt to be nec­es­sary to both nur­ture the mu­si­cal growth of the re­cip­i­ent, be it an ensem­ble or a soloist, and to in­crease pub­lic recog­ni­tion of their work. This could range from help­ing to buy a new in­stru­ment, fund­ing a Euro­pean agent, pay­ing for a de­but record­ing. The Leopold String Trio, who re­cently per­formed in Ed­in­burgh, put their money to­wards a Lon­don con­cert se­ries; pi­anist Jonathan Biss, last week­end’s soloist with the Royal Scot­tish Na­tional Orches­tra, used his award to fund a sab­bat­i­cal away from the pi­ano study­ing English lit­er­a­ture. Mean­while, for pi­ano duo Philip Moore and Si­mon Craw­fordPhillips, who re­ceived a Bor­letti-Buitoni Trust Fel­low­ship in 2004, the award meant com­mis­sion­ing a dou­ble pi­ano con­certo. “We’dliketodomore­work­with­orches­tras,” says Moore, whose part­ner­ship with Craw­ford-Phillips was formed in 1995 when the two were stu­dents at the Royal Academy of Mu­sic. “The prob­lem is there isn’t very much reper­toire for two pi­anos and orches­tra. The best known works are prob­a­bly the pieces by Mozart, Poulenc and Bar­tok, though there are also con­cer­tos by Mart­inu and Men­delssohn, but none of it is done very of­ten.”

Of course, to this list can now be added the fruit of the duo’s award: the Dou­ble Con­certo by Detlev Glan­ert, which re­ceives its pre­miere in Glas­gow with the BBC Scot­tish Sym­phony Orches­tra tonight. Though the Ham­burg-born com­poser is not a house­hold name in the UK, he is one of the most highly re­garded fig­ures of con­tem­po­rary mu­sic in con­ti­nen­tal Europe, par­tic­u­larly in the field of mu­sic theatre – his most re­cent opera Caligula was pre­miered last year in Frank­furt to con­sid­er­able ac­claim.

The BBC SSO al­ready has an as­so­ci­a­tion with Glan­ert; the orches­tra and then chief con­duc­tor Osmo Van­ska pre­miered his Third Sym­phony at the BBC Proms in 1996, a work it later per­formed again with the con­duc­tor of tonight’s con­cert, Martin Brab­bins. More re­cently, in 2006 – again at the Proms – it gave the first per­for­mance of Glan­ert’s ar­range­ment of the Four Se­ri­ous Songs by Brahms. It was this re­la­tion­ship that led to the orches­tra com­ing on board when the Bor­letti-Buitoni Trust was look­ing for a co-com­mis­sioner for the project.

Com­mis­sion­ing new mu­sic is an ex­pen­sive and drawn-out process with lit­tle guar­an­tee of what will be the end re­sult, and only the com­poser’s pre­vi­ous works to go by as an ex­am­ple of what it will prob­a­bly be like. “When it comes to trust re­cip­i­ents think­ing about hav­ing new works writ­ten, the mu­si­cians al­ways tend to men­tion the same star names, peo­ple who are of­ten booked up with work for the next decade,” says Bor­letti-Buitoni trust ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Susan Rivers. “We try to steer the re­cip­i­ents to­wards the right com­poser for them, one who will be in­ter­ested in the com­mis­sion and write some­thing worth­while.” It­took­theGlan­ert­pro­ject­morethanthree years to come to fruition and I’m now in Hanover to see the be­gin­ning of the fi­nal stage of that process. Moore and Craw­ford-Phillips are giv­ing a recital and Glan­ert has come from his home in Ber­lin so that he can hear a f irst play-through of the solo parts be­fore the re­hearsals in Glas­gow in the days be­fore the pre­miere.

Glan­ert turns out to be a sur­pris­ingly jolly in­di­vid­ual for some­one whose work has a rep­u­ta­tion for ex­plor­ing the darker sides of the hu­man con­di­tion. His Dou­ble Con­certo prom­ises to be some­thing of a de­par­ture from this theme, in­spired as it is by pic­tures from the Pathfinder mis­sion to the sur­face of Mars. “What fas­ci­nated me about those images was that it’s not a lu­nar land­scape at all, but rather it looks more like a very strange land­scape on earth,” Glan­ert ex­plains. “What also caught my at­ten­tion was that the names given to those land­scapes: Ely­sium Mons, Or­cus Pa­t­era and so on are all ref­er­ences to Euro­pean – Greek and Ro­man – myth. Be­hind this is the fact that mankind can only de­fine the un­known with the help of the known. This, in a way, is the phys­i­cal foun­tain of the con­certo.”

Af­ter the con­cert, in which Moore and Craw­ford-Phillips play two-pi­ano works by De­bussy, Rach­mani­nov and Brahms, Glan­ert dis­cusses the way in which each of the com­posers writes for the dou­blepi­ano com­bi­na­tion – whether as a di­a­logue or a com­pos­ite in­stru­ment. In his own

con­certo, Glan­ert says he uses the dou­ble­ness of both pi­anos in sev­eral ways. “In one way it can be the su­per pi­ano – the pi­ano with four hands, in an­other it can be the dou­ble pi­ano, one pi­ano plus an­other. This al­lows you to play with the two pi­anos; like tak­ing a pic­ture of the same scene from dif­fer­ent an­gles. There are enor­mous mu­si­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties to play with.”

Glan­ert goes on to de­scribe the con­certo as a “tri­a­logue” – two pi­anos talk­ing with the orches­tra. “It’s two sim­i­lar peo­ple talk­ing to an­other per­son,” he says. “Some­times they take the same po­si­tion in the dis­cus­sion, some­times they are against each other. At other times the orches­tra takes the part of each side and it goes full cir­cle – it’s full of con­stantly shift­ing coali­tions.”

In the Hanover play-through the con­certo comes across as rather play­ful, full of shim­mer­ing, shift­ing pas­sages that at times seem to re­call familiar pieces of mu­sic. Glan­ert de­scribes th­ese ref­er­ences as al­lu­sions: “It’s a tech­nique I’ve used for a long time,” he says. “You hear a melody or har­mony that sounds, for ex­am­ple, like a Rach­mani­nov ref­er­ence, but you never find it, not even in a close way.”

Glan­ert has pre­vi­ously writ­ten a con­certo for solo pi­ano, “a real warhorse,” he says laugh­ing, hav­ing just been told the English word for the 19th-cen­tury pi­ano con­certo. “If you paint a pic­ture of a hero and dou­ble it, it be­comes re­ally bitty and less pow­er­ful,” he says. “What in­ter­ested me about writ­ing the Dou­ble Con­certo is that a dou­ble hero is no hero at all – you have to do some­thing dif­fer­ent.” Detlev Glan­ert’s Dou­ble Pi­ano Con­certo is pre­miered tonight at Glas­gow City Hall.

Si­mon Craw­ford-Phillips, left, and Philip Moorecom­mis­sionedGer­man­com­poser Detlev Glan­ert’s dou­ble pi­ano con­certo with an award from the Bor­letti-Buitoni Trust

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