Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you is a work for orchestra and soprano setting text arranged by Paul Griffith from Ophelia’s lines in Hamlet. It was written for and dedicated to Barbara Hannigan who recorded it in 2015 (I think) with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Andris Nelsons.
It’s a piece in seven sections of varying moods expressing different aspects of Ophelia; both in the play and in the afterlife of the character in paintings etc. Generally the music sits on the fractured edge of tonality with a melodic line that owes something to folk music. Sometimes it’s extremely slow with a bassy, brooding air and other times it’s bright and busy.
The vocal part is, surprise, extremely demanding. Some of it lies very high and it requires constant changes of technique. Sometimes Hannigan sings with sustained pure tone, at others with conventional rapid vibrato and others again where she’s modulating quite slowly either side of the note. Plus, of course, there are scary jumps and runs. Unsurprisingly this very difficult soundscape is navigated with apparent ease. The very complex orchestral accompaniment is also delivered with great clarity.
The standard quality CD recording is just fine and the disk comes with notes by Griffith which are really quite enlightening. It’s a disc that is likely to please any amateur of contemporary vocal music.
The work was written for Hannigan to perform initially with the Berlin Philharmonic, and a superb video is available on the Berlin Phil’s Digital Concert Hall. Hannigan also performed it with the Toronto Symphony under Oundjian during the New Creations Festival back in March 2015, which was the North American premiere. It is a wonderful piece, full of imaginative atmospheric orchestral effects.
It is wonderful orchestral writing. I’ve just been watching The Snow Queen. There are lots of similarities.
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