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?
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But that quiet, frozen rustle at the close is an essential nod to another of Mr. Abrahamsen said in an interview at his Midtown Manhattan hotel before the Carnegie performance in January. Borrowing a piece of paper, the trim, soft-spoken composer began sketching out analytical parallels between the works. Abrahamsen, who walks with a distinct limp, has cerebral palsy. He recalled listening as a child to his father, a schoolteacher, play piano in their apartment outside Copenhagen.
But his right hand had only two fingers capable of playing the instrument, and he could not advance. A family friend suggested he take up the French horn, which could be mastered with one hand, so he did. In his music, Mr. Abrahamsen uses restraints as opportunities for creative exploration. And it becomes something else. Attracted to approaches from the United States, Mr.
Abrahamsen views himself as more a Classicist than a Romantic, drawn to objectivity and Stravinsky-like detachment rather than emotional excess.
And then, for nearly a decade, Mr. Abrahamsen fell silent. Between and , he wrote just one short song. He felt that his music had become so complex that he no longer had the tools to create what he tried to imagine. He stumbled across a set of obscure canons by Bach that sounded oddly contemporary.
Abrahamsen used his Bach arrangements as a model for two large-scale canons, written for a deliberately symmetrical instrumentation: a nonet comprising two trios of winds and strings, two pianos and a single percussionist. The first canon begins with a violin playing whispery, repeated tones against a hushed piano. Abrahamsen expanded the work into 10 canons that make up an hour of ghostly music. As the instruments swirl in polyphonic motion, they create vivid images of frost: In what is now an Abrahamsen signature, the percussionist rubs sheets of paper on a table, and the two pianists run their fingernails across the keys in eerie glissandos.
Between movements, performers are asked to retune their instruments lower and lower, so that the music becomes more and more uncanny. We have this kind of fermata.
Hans Abrahamsen: Fame and Snow Falling on a Composer
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", Around this time, he was also involved with a group called the Gruppen for Alternativ Musik , which was designed to allow musicians to "perform new music in alternative forms," and "to develop socially and politically committed music.
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.
Hans Abrahamsen: Schnee