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Hans Abrahamsen

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Schnee (2008)
Wilhelm Hansen
Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
57 Minutes

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Programme Note
Hans Abrahamsen Schnee (2008)
Schnee (2006)
2 Canons for 9 instruments
I. Ruhig aber beweglich
(for Piano Quartet)
II. Fast immer sehr zart und stille
(for 9 instruments)

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.

Schnee, consisting of canon 1 and 2, will form part of the complete work that will consist of a number of canons – movements – written for various line-ups within the Ensemble Recherche.

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.

Canon 1 is written for group 1 (piano quartet), and canon 2 – which is a kind of doubling of canon 1 – is written for the tutti ensemble.

- Hans Abrahamsen

  • Ensemble
    Ensemble Recherche
  • Large Ensemble (7 or more players):
  • 14 FEB 2015
    Cable Factory, Helsinki, Finland
    Avanti! Chamber Orchestra
    Ilan Volkov, conductor
  • 30 NOV 2014
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    Aventa Ensemble
  • 15 NOV 2014
    Tonhalle Zürich, Switzerland
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 30 MAY 2014
    Charleston, SC
    Spoleto Festival USA
    John Kennedy, conductor
  • 30 MAY 2014
    Charleston, SC
    Spoleto Festival USA
    John Kennedy, conductor
  • 09 MAR 2014
    Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, USA
    ensemble Dal Niente
  • 08 MAR 2014
    National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland
    Crash Ensemble
  • 19 DEC 2013
    Hotel Avenue, Copehagen, Denmark
    Alpha Trio
  • 05 DEC 2013
    Dijon Opera, Dijon, France
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 16 JUN 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Bang on a Can Festival
    Alex Lipowski, conductor
  • 05 OCT 2012
    Festival d'Automne de Paris
    Opera de Bastille, Amphithéâtre, Paris
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 21 JUL 2012
    Brooklyn, NY
    Bang on a Can Festival
    Brad Lubman, conductor
  • 14 JUN 2012
    RNCM Manchester
    RNCM Ensemble
  • 16 FEB 2012
    Schnee Country Premiere
    Carl Nielsen: Symfoni Nr. 6 Country Premiere
    Carl Nielsen: Symphony No. 6 Country Premiere
    Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam
    ASKO | SCHÖNBERG Ensemble
    Reinbert de Leeuw, conductor
  • 02 DEC 2011
    Schnee Country Premiere
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Hermes Ensemble
  • 20 OCT 2011
    Bodø Kulturhus, Norway
    Bodø Sinfonietta
    Morten S Wensberg, conductor
  • 13 SEP 2011
    Schnee Country Premiere
    Ultima Festival
    Norges musikkhøgskole, Oslo, Norway
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 25 APR 2011
    Los Angeles, Monday Evening Concerts
    MEC Ensemble
  • 26 JAN 2011
    Boston, MA
    Boston Conservatory
    Jeff Means, conductor
  • 26 JAN 2011
    Boston, USA
    Ludovico Ensemble
  • 21 JAN 2011
    Schnee Country Premiere
    Scandinavia House, New York, NY
    Talea Ensemble
    Alex Lipowski, conductor
  • 20 NOV 2010
    St Paul's Huddersfield, UK
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 20 NOV 2010
    Schnee Country Premiere
    Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, England
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 16 SEP 2010
    Sacrum Profanum
    Krakaow, Poland
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 03 JUN 2010
    Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
    London Sinfonietta
  • 19 MAR 2010
    Reid Hall, Edinburgh, UK
    Hebrides Ensemble
  • 04 NOV 2009
    Schnee Country Premiere
    Odense, Denmark
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 04 NOV 2009
    Schnee Country Premiere
    Det Fynske Musikkonservatorium, Odense, Denmark
    Ensemble Recherche
  • 07 APR 2009
    Music of Today
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    Philharmonia Orchestra
    André de Ridder, conductor
  • 11 MAR 2009
    University of Southampton

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,,1/8/2013
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,11/25/2010
Schnee is intense, simple and captivating
Jakob Weigand Goetz, Seismograf,7/26/2010
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, ,7/22/2010
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