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Hans Abrahamsen

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Schnee (2008),
Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Large Ensemble (7+ players)
Year Composed
57 Minutes

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Programme Note
Hans Abrahamsen Schnee (2008),
10 Canons for 9 instruments:

. . . . .

Canon 1a. Ruhig aber beweglich (three strings and piano)
Canon 1b. Fast immer zart und stille (tutti)
Canon 2a. Lustig spielend, aber nicht zu lustig, immer ein bisschen melancholish (three woodwinds and piano)

Intermezzo 1. (three strings, three woodwinds)

Canon 2b. Lustig spielend, aber nicht zu lustig, immer ein bisschen melancholish (tutti)
Canon 3a. Sehr langsam, schleppend und mit Trübsinn (im Tempo des "Tai Chi") (three strings, three woodwinds)
Canon 3b. Sehr langsam, schleppend und mit Trübsinn (im Tempo des "Tai Chi") (two pianos and percussion)

Intermezzo 2. (three strings)

Canon 4a (minore) (Hommage à WAM). Stürmich, unruhig und nervös (tutti)
Canon 4b (maggiore). Sehr stürmich, unruhig und nervös (tutti)

Intermezzo 3. (cello, piccolo, clarinetto)

Canon 5a (rectus). Einfach und kindlich (violin, viola, two pianos, piccolo, clarinetto)
Canon 5b (inversus). Einfach und kindlich (violin, viola, two pianos, piccolo, clarinetto)

. . . . .

In the beginning of the 90s, I arranged some of J.S. Bach’s canons for ensemble – in total seven single standing works from his entire life span. I became totally absorbed into this music and arranged them with the intention of the music being repeated many, many times, as a kind of minimal music. Obviously, I didn’t know which durations Bach had in mind, but by listening to his canons in this way, a profound new moving world of circular time was opened to me.

Depending on the perspective on these canons, the music and its time can stand still or move either backwards or forwards.

In my own work, an ongoing idea has persisted, of at somepoint writing a work consisting of a number of canonical movements that would explore this universe of time. And when I was offered the commission for Ensemble Recherche and Wittener Tage, it felt as the right time to do this.

In Schnee, a few simple and fundamental musical questions are explored. What is a Vorsatz? And what is a Nachsatz? Can a phrase be answering? Or questioning?

The guideline or rule for the canons is very simple: We start out with an answering Vorsatz, followed by a questioning Nachsatz. Throughout the time of the piece, these two are intertwined more and more, as more and more dicht geführt canons, until, at the end, they are interchanged. Now the question and then the answer. The two canons are identical like a painting in two versions, but with different colors. And where the first one does not include the space, the second one does, as well as containing more canonical traces.

The nine instruments are divided into two groups: the first one situated to the left consists of piano 1, violin, viola and cello, and the second group on the right of piano 2 (pianino), flute, oboe and clarinet. In the middle is the percussion.

- Hans Abrahamsen

Score preview

  • Ensemble
    Ensemble Recherche
  • Large Ensemble (7 or more players):
Abrahamsen's music is fragile and beautiful, tender and rugged, simple and complex at the same time.
Kristin Amme, BR Klassik,13/07/2019
In manipulating the listener's sense of proximity to the sound, Abrahamsen creates a spacial interplay that is far more powerful live than on a recording
Drew Baker,,08/01/2013
Schnee explores the idea that our perception of nearly identical patterns causes the imagination to project new forms by itself... The listener's awareness fluctuates between following all the intricate processes and letting them go - and slipping into a pleasurable trance.
Guy Dammann, The Guardian,25/11/2010
Schnee is intense, simple and captivating
Jakob Weigand Goetz, Seismograf,26/07/2010
Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee is a wonder. How to say how? It is a sequence of aural images of snow, in some cases onomatopoeic (the swish of brushing off a wooden deck, the soft ease-crunch of steps through a fresh snowfall) but more often poetic
Paul Griffiths, ,22/07/2010
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