All of us at the Mizzou New Music Initiative are pleased to welcome Hans Abrahamsen as one of our two distinguished guest composers for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival.
The winner of major honors including the Carl Nielsen Prize (1989) and the Wilhelm Hansen Prize (1998), Abrahamsen (pictured) since 1995 has taught composition and orchestration at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. As a distinguished guest composer for the MICF, he’ll work with the festival’s eight resident composers as a group and individually, and also will give a public presentation on his music.
Born in 1952 in Copenhagen, Abrahamsen first pursued his own study of music at the Royal Danish Academy, where he was inspired by his composition teachers and mentors Per Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.
His early works also reflected the influence of the “New Simplicity” movement, which had some parallels to minimalism in that it was a reaction by Danish composers of the mid-1960s to the excessive complexity of the music then being written by the European avant-garde. Noteworthy compositions from the first part of Abrahamsen’s career include his String Quartet No. 1, “10 Preludes,” and “Winternacht,” an ensemble work composed between 1976 and 1978.
In the 1980s, Abrahamsen studied with and befriended György Ligeti, and continued to develop his personal style in works such as the orchestral “Nacht und Trompeten” (1981); “Marchenbilder,” an ensemble piece from 1984, and “Lied in Fall,” written in 1987 for cello and 13 instruments.
After a hiatus from composing that lasted nearly a decade, Abrahamsen returned with more personal work, including a piano concerto written in 1999 for his wife Anne-Marie Abildskov, and the extended chamber work “Schnee”, which was premiered in 2008 by Ensemble Recherche and has received considerable critical acclaim.
Abrahamsen’s “Let me tell you,” for soprano and orchestra, was premiered in December 2013 by the Berlin Philharmonic, with Barbara Hannigan, to whom the work is dedicated, as soprano soloist and Andris Nelsons conducting. It has proven to be one of Abrahamsen’s most immediately popular works, with 15 performances since the premiere. Many additional performances and a recording are scheduled, and in May of this year, “Let me tell you” also won the Royal Philharmonic Society’s 2015 Award for Large-Scale Composition.
Abrahamsen’s current projects include work on an operatic setting of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” which will get a premiere performance in the fall of 2018 from the Royal Danish Opera. “Terms like ‘magical’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘elusive’ are often used describe Abrahamsen’s music, and for good reason,” said a recent feature story about Abrahamsen in the Glasgow, Scotland newspaper The Herald. “Like a fairytale or a winter landscape, he takes what is familiar and transforms it, allowing us to experience it, and perhaps ourselves, afresh.”
(You can hear some samples of Hans Abrahamsen’s music and an interview with him via the embedded YouTube and SoundCloud players below.)
String Quartet No. 1 “10 Preludes”
Hans Abrahamsen talks about his compositions “Schnee”‘ and String Quartet No. 4
“Schnee” Canon 2B, from the US premiere performance by the Talea Ensemble, conducted by James Baker, on January 21, 2011 at Scandinavia House, New York City.
“Let me tell you”