Secret Room forms the third in a series of Glanert chamber sonatas, following Vergessenes Bild (1994) and Gestalt (1995), each scored for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola, cello and double bass. The series of works is experimental and abstract in style, rigorously exploring a restricted range of material, phrasing and proportions, in contrast to the rich and descriptive nature of much of the composer’s operatic and orchestral music.
Whereas Vergessenes Bild examined a two-dimensional picture, and Gestalt a three-dimensional figurative form, Secret Room offers perspectives on an individual positioned within a defined volume. The fixed parameters in the 12-minute work are provided by the four walls of a room, marked out by the four successive sections of the score, each employing a faster speed and an increase in nervous tension. Glanert likens the musical techniques in the work to those of the artist Francis Bacon, finding compositional equivalents to the ideas of overpainting on the canvas so as to obscure areas of earlier brushwork, and of scratching out the surface to reveal hidden layers. Secret Room as a whole exhibits a strong sense of claustrophobia, with the pressure on the trapped individual mounting as the piece progresses.
Secret Room was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with financial assistance from the Goethe-Institut.
David Allenby, 2002
"Secret Room prooved the big hit. If other composers made a perccussionist teat tissue paper it might be a Dadaist joke: here the rip of sound found a proper musical place in a fabulously beguling work." (Geoff Brown, The Times, 20 May 2002)
"It’s a tightly argued, four section single movement, which gradually increases in intensity and generates a feeling of claustrophobia through an economical collection of vivid gestures, and generates constantly arresting and genuinely inventive instrumental colours from a handful of instruments." (Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 17 May 2002)