Hans Abrahamsen - Let me tell you (CD) | Winter & Winter 9102322

Hans Abrahamsen - Let me tell you (CD)


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Label: Winter & Winter

Cat No: 9102322

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Vocal/Choral

Release Date: 8th January 2016



Barbara Hannigan (soprano)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks


Andris Nelsons


Abrahamsen, Hans

Let me tell you


Barbara Hannigan (soprano)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks


Andris Nelsons


Premiered by soprano Barbara Hannigan [with the Berlin Philharmonic] and conductor Andris Nelsons in 2013. 'Let me tell you', winner of the 2016 Gawemeyer Award, is a setting of a libretto by Paul Griffiths. The work is based on Griffiths’ 2008 novel of the same name, using the limited vocabulary which Shakespeare afforded Ophelia to create a more complex idea of the character. Comprising seven poems, the work is divided into three parts devoted to Ophelia’s past, present and future.

Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen was smitten by the idea of scoring Paul Griffiths’ novella 'Let me tell you'. Barbara Hannigan, asked to sing at a surprise party for the writer and critic, dared to suggest a commission to the Berlin Philharmonic. Before she knew it, they had accepted. While many world premieres fall into oblivion, she has ensured subsequent performances with the Gothenburg Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic and the City of Birmingham Symphony this season. Other orchestras have plans to programme the work further down the line.

The soprano, who has sung some 80 premieres, feels such a strong sense of responsibility that she compares the piece to a baby: "Don’t drop it", she wants to say, "keep it clothed and nourished".

This is the second time that a musical setting of a text by Paul Griffiths has won the Grawemeyer (Tan Dun's Marco Polo won in 1998). The piece also won the 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society award for large-scale composition, which described it as "a work of exquisite beauty whose ravishing surface belies a meticulously imagined and innovative score". Abrahamsen’s other accolades include the Carl Nielsen Prize (1989) and the Wilhelm Hansen Composer Prize (1998).

Hannigan has revealed just how involved she was at the early stages of the composition process: this being the composer’s first sung work, she [Hannigan] gave him a four-hour session in vocal music from Renaissance to 12-tone. "I think that’s why the writing doesn’t feel like modern music to me", she says. "I feel like it has always been there. Even though the intervals and rhythms might be difficult, the lyricism has a timeless quality".


The spare yet pregnant lines of text meet Abrahamsen’s finely spun textures and each word feels felt and weighed in music. Possibly you don’t even need to know that Barbara Hannigan is singing Ophelia’s words any more, yet her vehemence and passion suggest she thinks justice is finally being done to a woman who never did get much chance to tell her side of the story. … The Bard’s Ophelia drowned in the brook; this one wanders into the snow, her tread hypnotically evoked by paper softly rubbed around the skin of a bass drum. It’s a tiny, tragic Winterreise, but its final sung echoes are defiant: ‘I will go on’. The rest is silence.  Neil Fisher
Gramophone March 2016
A mysterious, ululating soprano line opens Hans Abrahamsen’s song cycle – a setting of Paul Griffiths’s novella that uses only words spoken by Shakespeare’s Ophelia, and one of the most spellbindingly beautiful vocal-orchestral works of recent years. It was created for soprano Barbara Hannigan and is a stunning vehicle for her, with its floating, effortless-sounding high notes and pure, expressive tone. Kate Molleson
The Guardian 15 January 2016
Abrahamsen expresses both the fragility and force of Griffiths’s imagined Ophelia through glinting, gauze-like textures and moments of clattering tumult ... Barbara Hannigan’s agile, luminous voice is ideal, and sings with power and subtlety, superbly matched by Andris Nelsons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.  Kate Wakeling
BBC Music Magazine May 2016
Gramophone Editor's Choice Gramophone Award Winner

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