Hans Abrahamsen, Wald (2009) | Chicago premiere

Duration: 18 minutes
Instrumentation: Large ensemble
Premiered by ASKO Ensemble on Jan. 14, 2010, at Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Copyright/publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen

The composer writes:
Wald is, in a way, a series of variations from the beginning of my woodwind quintet Walden (1978). This thematic idea is very simple — a rising call of a fourth and the response in other voices. This idea is repeated several times, but because the call has a slower pulse than the responses, the process leads to them changing order.

“In Walden, I borrowed the title from the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who, in the middle of the 18th century, in a little wooden hermit house at the bank of the Lake Walden pond, wrote the book Walden of his life and time in the forests. Here he experimented living for two years to come closer to nature and to see if it was possible to live simply without all the unnecessary needs created by society. The book is filled with poetry, but is also cutting and critical of society. In my piece Walden, I tried to search for the same simplicity, handling the simplest material, but at the same time trying not to lose the poetry. Wald is a twin piece to Walden, but also to my former piece Schnee.

“Robert Schumann wrote in 1848-49 a wonderful piano piece, Waldszenen. He wrote this collection of short pieces with beautiful titles like Einsame Blumen, Vogel als Prophet and also Jäger auf der Lauer, just a few years before Thoreau wrote his book Walden. For them the forest is the magical romantic place that gives a spiritual insight to man, but also from where we get our food through hunting. For me, the forest still has this magical quality, and Wald has scenes with a hunting horn that calls (I many years ago played the magical ‘waldhorn’ and remember playing in the forest near my home) flocks of birds that when agitated take off, and there is also the sense of a hunt followed by galloping horses.”

About the composer:
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 call of composers whose works he has, as a master orchestrator, reconceived: Bach and Ligeti, Nielsen and Schumann, Schoenberg and Debussy. But Abrahamsen 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 as one of the rare classics of the 21st century.

Besides these two pieces for instrumental ensemble, his output includes four string quartets, a collection of 10 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, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.