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Hans Abrahamsen - Let me tell you (LP) | Winter & Winter 9172321

Hans Abrahamsen: Let Me Tell You
Hans Abrahamsen

12" Album


Label: Winter & Winter

Cat No: 9172321

Number of Discs: 1

Release Date: 8th January 2016

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Gramophone Editor's Choice



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".

Track Listing

Track Listing

Track NumberTrack Name
1Let Me Tell You How It Was
2O But Memory Is Not One But Many
3There Was a Time, I Remember
4Let Me Tell You How It Is
5Now I Do Not Mind
6I Know You Are There
7I Will Go Out Now

Preview Tracks

Preview Tracks


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

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