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Hans Abrahamsen Portrait

Schnee Part 1 (2006) & Märchenbilder (1984)

Philharmonia Orchestra/André de Ridder
Introduced by Julian Anderson in conversation with Hans Abrahamsen

Royal Festival Hall 7 April 2009

Hans Abrahamsen's music used to be a regular feature of London new-music life but he suffered a a terrible loss of creative confidence in the 1990s, a case of composer’s block that lasted nearly a decade. He has only fairly recently reappeared, notably with his piano concerto in 2005.

His Schnee was a bizarre offering for the well attended Festival Hall.

Julian Anderson gave us an extra special warning that a mobile phone would wreck it, and indeed it was about the quietest music ever heard there, beating even the early pianissimo creations of Matthias Pintscher, heard in an earlier series of these Philharmonia pre-concerts. Schnee began with little tinklings on the piano, the strings of the ostensible piano quartet moving their bows apparently inaudibly from where we were sitting (Jörg Widmann has gone in for that sort of thing in some of his string quartets).

Lacking any interruption, the electrical sounds (of the lighting or the air conditioning system?) took over, as is all too common in modern concert halls (q.v. Tess Ormond at Kings Place: Unfortunately the miniature sound world here was also augmented by the unwelcome sound of a fan at the back of the hall, which persisted annoyingly throughout). It really was hard to take this new recreation of Abrahamsen seriously.

Märchenbilder, glad to say, restored confidence and my memory of its engaging intricasies from performanes in the '80s. It is a very individual and personal creation, and i was glad that he still acknowledges it sufficiently to have chosen it for this short concert.

We did not remain for the main Maazel concert; by all accounts a lucky escape...

Peter Grahame Woolf