Music Reviews

Requiem for Bosch

Detlev Glanert (1960) is  a contemporary composer, known for his operas and other works.  He was commissioned to write Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch by ‘Hieronymus Bosch 500’ and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.  Just released, the recording is remarkable!

Detlev Glanert (photo by Iko Freese)

Hieronymus Bosch (C 1450-1516) was a landmark artist from what is described as the Early Netherlandish school.  He is known for his fantastic images, detailed landscapes, and depiction of pre-Reformation religious concepts.   One can spend hours finding all the artistic detail and the “stories” in any of his works.  They are not easy,  but they are rewarding.  The booklet cover shows an example.

Speaking of the booklet, the liner notes are an excellent read for background on Bosch and Detlev Glanert!  Here’s an excerpt:

“The commission to compose the Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch was the very thing Glanert was looking for.  Here at last was the opportunity to bestow a mass for the dead upon the enigmatic Bosch.  But do not expect the composer to come up with a sweet-sounding homage, for Bosch is to be subjected to nothing less than heavenly judgement. ‘My Requiem takes place several seconds after Bosch’s decease. His soul is condemned to go on its way to purgatory.  Prior to the great judgement, a hearing is held.  The key question,’ Glanert tells with mischievous pleasure, is ‘whether our Bosch will go to paradise or be destined for hell’.  A dramatic setting of this caliber is hardly wasted on the composer.  We hear the archangel Michael scouring all seven deadly sins in search of the slightest blot on Bosch’s escutcheon. ‘Will our poor Bosch obtain the right to sit next to Lazarus in paradise?  Be not afraid, the archangel will find nothing sinful – redemption is nigh,’ Glanert says with a smile.” 

And there is a huge combination of good and evil, darkness and light, beautiful peace, humor and dramatic tension in this remarkable piece.   And it is really more of an oratorio than a requiem mass.  While it does not sound like the work of any of these composers, I was reminded at times of Verdi, Brahms, Mahler, Stravinsky, Orff, and Britten.  The music is not operatic, but it does seem somewhat theatrical at times– and I mean that  in a good sense.

Is it great music that will last the ages?  I don’t think anyone will know for a few decades.  But I was thoroughly impressed by it.  And let me add that this is a perfect demonstration of modern recording, in stereo or multi-channel.   The soloists, the two (!) choirs, the organ, and the RCO under Markus Stenz are all amazingly caught in a live performance in December of 2016 within the Royal Concertgebouw acoustics.

Cover image: Bosch detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights panel 2 (

Written by

Bill Dodd

Bill is Senior Music Reviewer at NativeDSD. He lives in the Portland, Oregon area. He is an avid photographer too! Along with his early interest in broadcasting and high fidelity audio, he was exposed to classical music in small doses from age 5, was given piano lessons from age 9— Starting with Bach and including Gershwin. Successful morning personality in San Francisco at age 22. (true). Sang in choirs in high school and college. Although the broadcasting experience was all in popular music, his personal listening has been mostly classical his whole life—along with others including Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Joni Mitchell, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.


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