All music, old and new, has always dealt with the balance between wanting to entertain and intellectual reflection, and a characteristic and fascinating solution is shown in the stature and works of Johannes Brahms: there does not seem to be another composer of his generation and of his format who in his music has held the balance between the highest intellectual aspiration and, in the best sense of the word, popular expression – “popular” not as ingratiation with a supposed community, but rather as the most intimate expression of a sensitive or powerful, arguably also North-German attitude toward life.
Even in his most earthy Ländler and waltzes, a delicately balanced web of thoughts, even in the most complex polyphony – for example, of a chaconne – dominates a song structure as the fundament. Whichever of his scores one takes, intellectual aspiration and the offer of a decipherability of his language join together. One of the surprises of musical history is that an analyst like Arnold Schoenberg was the first to comprehensively point out the complex constructions of Brahms’s works and his importance for modern music; a complexity that however never became an end in itself in a score by Brahms.
As a composer born in Hamburg, Detlev Glanert obviously took great pleasure in composing with “Brahms’s material” – the same intellectual and aesthetic experiment that Prokofiev allowed himself with Haydn in his First Symphony. This pleasure had a precursor in the work Vier Präludien und Ernste Gesänge (Four Preludes and Serious Songs) in which Glanert prepended preludes developed out of the material of the songs to the unaltered, but orchestrated Brahms’s songs.
The opening measures of Brahms’s First Symphony offer the contemporary composer particularly fascinating material, because they have become a topos of musical history. Time and again musicians have been prompted to a reaction of some kind. Thus, for example, Clara Schumann with pure horror; thus, for example, Hans Werner Henze in his Third Piano Concerto “Tristan” in which these measures are quoted as an antithesis to a Henze-Wagner world.
Detlev Glanert formed his piece from out of these opening measures in that he paraphrased the material and also the basic musical gesture, as Brahms himself also treated the chromaticism of the beginning as a tone row out of which, however, a new music evolved through continually different alterations, transpositions, and rearrangements. This touched what was so eminently important for Brahms in his music: the tender sorrow, misanthropy, melody, dance, counterpoint, Bohemia and Hungary, independence: a whole world out of one core – Glanert’s piece received its title “Brahms Fantasy” also as an allusion to the etching of the same name by Klinger, which pleased the old Brahms so greatly, and that thematized precisely the composer’s rich inner world.
Heliogravure is a nineteenth-century technique, no longer common today, in which photographs are painted over by means of a chemical process – an original material thus appears as something transfigured and “re-kneaded,” remains present in its original form and is nevertheless something new through the intervention of an artist. For this reason, Detlev Glanert found the subtitle ideal for this piece, a piece that is unique in his whole catalogue: one hears Brahms and yet does not hear him; hears Glanert’s music, and nevertheless it is not entirely his. A picture puzzle, music about music, an intellectual game, and a fantasy in foreign, yet nevertheless familiar guise.
Thomas Tangler (translation: Howard Weiner)
"Heliogravure was an early form of photography, where an etched plate was touched up with paint or ink... [Glanert's fantasy] movingly evoked Brahms’s central place in the great Germanic tradition, which extended after him as well as before."
"Subtitled "heliogravure for orchestra", the fantasy is a tightly packed 12-minute tribute, which is fuelled more by allusions to Brahms than by direct quotations… the integration of what is borrowed from Brahms with what is Glanert’s own creative property seems natural and seamless."
As suggested by the subtitle, Glanert’s music overlays his restless modern style onto a Brahms-size orchestra. In the surging ebb and flow Brahms handprints and rhythmic motifs are discernible, as if through a distorted aural mirror. Pizzicatos echo the finale of the First Symphony, organ-like string sonorities suggest Brahms’ lesser-known organ music, and a Hungarian Dance fragment morphs into a jazzy hoedown with virtuosic double bass slides. Yet Glanert entirely avoids pastiche and name-that-tune shtick. His Brahms-Fantasie is a smart, striking music gracefully putting an edgy contemporary sensibility onto music of the past."
Chicago Classical Review