Hans Abrahamsen (DK)

Let me tell you

Winner

The winner of the 2016 Nordic Council Music Prize is Hans Abrahamsen for the song cycle “Let me tell you”

Any seasoned listener can hear that Hans Abrahamsen’s song cycle “Let Me Tell You” is of a very high quality. The piece is understandable on many levels and conveys substance and refinement throughout its fragile but firmly handled textures. Although the symphonic layout at first seems traditional, it is at the same time new, inventive, and indeed a very contemporary piece.

It has been written with great craftmanship, not least in its dazzling orchestral colours, but also in its handling of the voice, which is especially notable in its virtuosic exploitation of the voice and musical abilities of soprano Barbara Hannigan, for whom it was written. It is a truly idiomatic piece.

The emotional expression is very detailed and strong in its many shades, especially in the long final song (like in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde) where its many byways are encapsulated and tie the whole concept together.

All in all it seems to be a work that will continue to live in the repertoire and be a constant challenge for ambitious sopranos for many years to come.

In English

Hans Abrahamsen
has conquered new ground in his new composition Let Me Tell You. Until now Abrahamsen has written very little for voice, so a large song-cycle is really uncharted territory. All the more remarkable is how well-suited the voice part is to the voice of Barbara Hannigan, for whom the piece has clearly been written. Hannigan, who herself recognises that the piece seems written with her in mind, tackles its often unusual demands in a highly idiomatic way. The orchestral accompaniment is a virtuoso canvas of what the modern symphony orchestra can do. During the performance by the Berlin Philharmonic, one could enjoy a maximum of clarity and an almost austere sparseness in their clever handling of the thin textures and minute details – handling that elicits the work’s ultimate expression – not to mention the elegant use of micro intervals which gives the piece a unique flavour. The texts by Paul Griffiths, a fantasy on Hamlet's Ophelia, provide the perfect vehicle for Abrahamsen’s and Hannigan's interpretative powers.

På dansk

Hans Abrahamsen har med sin seneste komposition, "Let Me Tell You", taget skridtet ind på et helt nyt territorium. Abrahamsen har hidtil skrevet meget få værker for sangstemmer, og derfor bevæger han sig med denne omfattende sangcyklus ud i uudforsket land. Sangdelen passer utroligt godt til Barbara Hannigans stemme, som stykket tydeligvis er dedikeret til. Hendes håndtering af de ofte usædvanlige krav, som værket stiller, virker imponerende idiomatisk, og det virker, som hun selv har sagt, som om det er skrevet med hende in mente. Orkestrets akkompagnement er en virtuos opvisning i, hvad et moderne symfoniorkester kan præstere.

Under Berliner Philharmonikernes opførelse kunne man nyde den utrolige klarhed og nærmest spartanske skrøbelighed i den intelligente håndtering af de tynde teksturer og små detaljer, som giver værket sit endegyldige udtryk, og i brugen af mikrointervaller, som forlener værket med en unik karakter. Teksterne af Paul Griffiths, en fantaseren over Hamlets Ofelia, skaber de perfekte rammer for Hans' og Barbara Hannigans fortolkningsevner.