Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen has won the 2016 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, one of the most prestigious honors in contemporary music. The prize, administered by the University of Louisville, carries a cash award of $100,000.
Abrahamsen, whose work Wald will be featured on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW program May 9, was honored for his song cycle for soprano and orchestra titled let me tell you. Commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic, the work received its world premiere in 2013 at a Berlin Phil concert featuring Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, under conductor Andris Nelsons.
In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Abrahamsen said, “I was happy [the prize] was for the first larger piece I’ve written for the human voice. … All of the piece relates to things I understand. We all have limitations and know times when we couldn’t find the words to express ourselves.” Inspired by a book by music critic-poet Paul Griffiths, the work centers on the tragic heroine Ophelia from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and uses just the 481 words that Ophelia speaks in the play.