NDP Team




Wiener Konzerthaus, Wien

January 10, 2018



10 canons for 9 instruments, 2008 (Austrian premiere)


PHACE Series 17/18 – N°2
Nacho de Paz, Dirigent


“Es ist Schnee, es ist Schnee!” (“It is snow, it is snow!”) – The scenery in Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee is set by these introductory words. Schnee, Abrahamsen’s largest project yet and one of the most remarkable compositions of this century, grew out of his transcribing of Bach canons and is inspired by the inexhaustible variety and the formal rigour of snow. The result is a sequence of canons unfolding in five complementary pairs that mirror each other in their counterpoint and texture, the qualities of one canon reflected and crystallized in the other. The rarefied landscape, cool transparency and chiseled musical texture present an extraordinary sound portrait of the white, crystalline rainfall of almost tangible presence.


Canon 1a. Ruhig aber beweglichCanon 1b. Fast immer zart und stille
Canon 2a. Lustig spielend, aber nicht zu lustig, immer ein bisschen melancholisch

Intermezzo 1.

Canon 2b. Lustig spielend, aber nicht zu lustig, immer ein bisschen melancholish
Canon 3a. Sehr langsam, schleppend und mit Trübsinn (im Tempo des „Tai Chi“)
Canon 3b. Sehr langsam, schleppend und mit Trübsinn (im Tempo des „Tai Chi“)

Intermezzo 2.

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

Intermezzo 3.

Canon 5a (rectus). Einfach und kindlich
Canon 5b (inversus). Einfach und kindlich









In a creative life of almost half a century, Hans Abrahamsen has more than once had the courage to stop, and the equal courage to start again – freshly, out of a clear reconsideration of where he was before. His allegiances are shown by the roll of composers whose works he has, as a master orchestrator, reconceived: Bach and Ligeti, Nielsen and Schumann, Schoenberg and Debussy. But he has long discovered his own terrain – quite often a snowscape, as in his early masterpiece Winternacht or the work in which he found his fully mature style, Schnee (2006-8), generally acknowledged one of the rare classics of the twenty-first century.

Besides these two pieces for instrumental ensemble, his output includes four string quartets, a collection of ten piano studies (some of which he has recomposed in other forms), concertos for piano, for piano and violin, and for piano left hand, and a monodrama for soprano and orchestra, let me tell you. He is currently at work on his first opera, after Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
© Paul Griffiths



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, drewbakermusic.com, 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