Now the question and then the answer. Among the leading younger figures of the s, Hans Abrahamsen largely ceased original composition until the arrival almost a decade ago of his Piano Concerto, and now comes his largest project yet. Lustig spielend, aber nicht zu lustig, immer ein bisschen melancholish three woodwinds and piano Intermezzo 1. Can a phrase be answering? And where the first one does not include the space, the second one does, as well as containing more canonical traces. In my own work, an ongoing idea has persisted, of at some point writing a work consisting of a number of canonical movements abrahammsen would explore this universe of time.
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We are in a world we partly know. Bach and Ligeti are just over the horizon. That tune rings a bell. Memories stir of sound as clear as light. And yet everything is different. No wonder this is a composer of so much snow music, for snow shapes itself on what we know to offer the possibility of a new start.
This, the new start, Abrahamsen has achieved several times, not least in his Schnee , scored for two pianos and percussion with contrasting trios and justly esteemed one of the first classics of twenty-first-century music. Gradually crystallizing canons, playing for close on an hour, are also musical portraits of snow: its flurries, its delicacy, its cold. Though based on a modal melody, the piece is by no means white-note music; indeed, characteristic microtonal retunings, made during the course of performance, are crucial to how it sounds, beautifully blurring the counterpoint as the canons shift in and out of focus.
An early beginner — his first published works date from when he was sixteen — Abrahamsen started out with a flair for rediscovering fundamentals. By the age of thirty he had produced a sizeable output: several orchestral works Nacht und Trompeten, a luminous and dramatic nocturne, was commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic , two string quartets and numerous other pieces, mostly instrumental, including another fine example of wintry musical poetry, Winternacht.
Ligeti, briefly his teacher, had been one of his first heroes, for exactness and beauty, along with Steve Reich. Now the debt was repaid, and a door opened. That, however, did not come until twenty years later. Meanwhile, he was finding a new outlet as an arranger, notably of pieces by Bach and Nielsen. Of original compositions, only a brief Rilke setting, Herbstlied, interrupted his silence between and Having returned to creative activity with a couple more piano studies, he then produced his first extended work in a decade and a half, the Piano Concerto he completed in Here, not for the last time, a new beginning had deep roots in his past — in the turbulent lopsided ostinatos and the contrasting stillnesses of the piano studies, and in the polyphony of type and topic that went back to Winternacht and beyond.
The concerto is also thoroughly characteristic in being at once intimate and tightly crafted, as close to Schumann as it is to Stravinsky. Once again, however, what might have seemed a breakthrough proved an impasse, and it was at this point that Abrahamsen turned again to his piano studies to remake the first four as Four Pieces for orchestra Rivalling Ravel or Boulez for orchestral transformation, and scored for a large grouping that includes Wagner tubas and plentiful percussion, these movements discover in the keyboard originals not only unsuspected intimations of bewitching sound but also an unforeseen expressive power.
His Third String Quartet , in four short movements, is a relatively simple piece that remains deeply puzzling. It starts with a purely diatonic invention such things had happened before in his music, for example in the final movements of his First Quartet and of his wind quintet Walden that might easily be a folk song, and that seems to hold the key to the movements that follow — a key they can never refind.
Microtonal tunings are absent here, but return in Wald for fifteen players , which, like Schnee, is at once natural depiction in this case of shadowy forests , cultural evocation of horn calls, hunts and lurking mystery and elaborate musical construct. The self-similarities of tangled woodland are echoed at several levels, from that of the opening tremulation fourths played by two violins, microtonally and metrically displaced from one another to that of the large-scale variation form.
The ominous yet captivating misaligned fourths from the start of Wald come back at the beginning of the work that followed: the Double Concerto for violin, piano and strings There are flakes, too, from Schnee, such as the chilling-exhilarating quasi-unisons of high piano and string harmonic or the dancing figures of the two fast movements. Yet this is also a work with its own character, reaching to moments of bursting brilliance or consolatory embrace.
Each composition joins its companions as a sibling, related but distinct. His let me tell you , a monodrama for soprano and orchestra, again finishes in a winter landscape but is perhaps most remarkable for its reinvention of vocal melody, keenly expressive, on the part of a composer who had written very little for the voice.
Early life[ edit ] His interest in composition and piano began after hearing his father playing piano. His first attempts at "little melodies" were designed to be played with the only two fingers on his right hand that were capable of playing the instrument. After realizing that he would not be able to progress, he shifted then shifted his focus to French Horn. From to , he studied horn, music theory, and music history at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. For Abrahamsen, this meant adopting an almost naive simplicity of expression, as in his orchestral piece Skum "Foam",
Hans Abrahamsen: Fame and Snow Falling on a Composer
We are in a world we partly know. Bach and Ligeti are just over the horizon. That tune rings a bell. Memories stir of sound as clear as light. And yet everything is different.
Hans Abrahamsen: Schnee