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Hans Abrahamsen

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2000),
Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Soloist(s) and Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
15 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)

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Programme Note
Hans Abrahamsen Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2000),

My Concerto for piano and orchestra was composed in 1999-2000 as a commission from BIT-20 Ensemble. The work is dedicated to Anne Marie Abildskov.

I Allegro Volante e nervoso
II Adagio innocente e semplice
III Tempo de grande gioia
IV Fluente ma tranquillo

Hans Abrahamsen

* * *

‘The piano concerto starts entirely as I usually start, with this filigree in the piano and many simultaneous layers,’ Hans Abrahamsen has explained: ‘The beginning is music that could continue almost minimalistically ad infinitum. But it doesn’t. Instead it has a seizure after just thirty seconds. It literally comes to a halt!’

There is no programmatic structure behind the four-movement course of the concerto, but a romantically minded listener may be tempted to interpret the development from a quick stalling of the familiar through the introduction (by the lyrical second movement) of something much more ‘innocent and simple’, as it says - something feminine, one feels like adding - to the third movement’s flashing firework display of a scherzo, which draws the curtain aside for a liberating rush of joy, as life after the advent of love. However, the undersigned assumes full responsibility for this interpretation.

The piano soloist is the undisputed main character in the concerto, and plays almost constantly in the first three movements. It is only in the fourth movement that she takes a break and listens. ‘The piano stirs up an anthill’, is Hans Abrahamsen’s own description, ‘and it becomes almost operatic! It is as if the music is about to fall right out over the edge of the abyss at the drastic general pause to which the second movement, the key movement of the work, builds up.’

Characteristically for Hans Abrahamsen’s works, one can dig out layer upon layer of earlier pieces from below the surface of the piano concerto. But there are also hidden allusions, as well as obvious references, to the music of other composers. This is clearest in the second movement, where one finds an explicit reference to Mahler - ‘(Wie Mahler!)’ - at a point where the trumpet, fanfare-like, repeats the note C sharp. The third movement has a similar tribute to György Ligeti, who along with Per Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen has been among Hans Abrahamsen’s most important teachers. The piano concerto was commissioned by the BIT-20 Ensemble and premiered with Anne Marie Abildskov as soloist at the Ultima Festival in Oslo in 2000.

Thomas Michelsen, 2002

Score preview

  • Ensemble
    BIT20 Ensemble
    Anne Marie Abildskov (piano)
    Ilan Volkov
  • Ensemble
    WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln
    Tamara Stefanovich (piano)
    Jonathan Stockhammer
How heartening that Abrahamsen has returned to composition with the Piano Concerto [...] makes one keenly anticipate Abrahamsen's renewed creative development
Richard Whitehouse, International record review,31/08/2005
The Danish composer employs an old-fashioned title, and the climax of the second movement features almost traditional bravura writing for the soloist, yet nearly everything is newly and delicately imagined
John Allison, The Times,26/05/2005
Hans Abrahamsen's Piano Concerto was the other main work in the programme, a piece that rings postmodern changes to the classical concerto form as the mercurial soloist (Anne Marie Abildskov) leads the ensemble on a prancing, witty tour of allusions to Mahler, Ligeti and Berg
Tim Ashley, The Guardian,25/05/2005
The sensibility stands absolutely naked, supported by a humble studied elegance which can only be done in a tasteful way by a composer who controls the chamberorchestral sound. To the creative mind this is a question of kill or cure - long listening rests where the material is considered right or wrong. The fact that these intervals seem so intense are perhaps the best evidence of how emotional this work is succeeded
Jan Jacoby, Politiken,12/12/2000
...You feel the elimination, the unceasingly cutting out the "nearly good ideas". [...] Hans Abrahamsen's new Piano Concerto showed clearly why he is among the greatest composers of the North
Ståle Wikshåland, Dagbladet (Norge),16/10/2000
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