One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor in Chief: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

 


tenor and baritone


RECORDING OF THE MONTH
A very fine achievement


Complete ballet


Orchestral Music


music that will please greatly


Captivating scores

Symphonies - Philippe Jordan
A pleasure to see and hear


vital imagination


Henrik HELLSTENIUS
A harum-scarum springboard


Always expect the unexpected

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Hans ABRAHAMSEN (b. 1952)
let me tell you, for soprano and orchestra (2012-2013) [32:39]
Text by Paul Griffiths
Barbara Hannigan (soprano)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Andris Nelsons
rec. 1-3 July 2015, Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany
Reviewed as a 24/96 download from eClassical
Pdf booklet includes sung texts (English & German)
WINTER & WINTER 910 232-2 [32:45]

Not only did this release get a glowing review from Leslie Wright it was also MusicWeb’s Recording of the Year for 2016. Intrigued by my colleague’s detailed and thoughtful response to the piece – not to mention the rave notices elsewhere – I simply had to hear what all the fuss was about. And as I’ve not encountered any Abrahamsen before this really is an ‘innocent ear’ review. There’s only 33 minutes of music here, but eClassical’s per-second charging model means the lossless download costs a very reasonable $8.82 (6.94). Alas, CD buyers will have to pay full whack, typically 10-13 online.

let me tell you is based on British author and music critic Paul Griffiths’s experimental novella of the same name, which in turn draws on the doomed Ophelia’s lines from Hamlet. Abrahamsen’s chosen stanzas – seven in all – aren’t presented chronologically; nor are they to be taken as mere exposition, for it’s the abstractions that really matter here. On a more prosaic level this three-part song cycle deals with the past, the present and the future. The Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, well-versed in contemporary repertoire, gave the first performance of let me tell you in Berlin in 2013, and has since premiered it elsewhere. She, Griffiths and Abrahamsen worked closely on the piece, so this debut recording is likely to become a benchmark.

Those who equate contemporary works – especially experimental ones – with gritted teeth and offended ears will be pleasantly surprised by this score. The writing is spare, to which Hannigan appends her warm, superbly focused tones. The effect is intimate and engaging, often otherworldly but not too ‘other’. That said, I was astonished to pick out skeins of Strauss and Mahler in the mix. In particular the final stanza in Part 1 and the first in Part 2 surely draw from the same harmonic and stylistic well as Mahler’s valedictory Ninth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde. Indeed, let me tell you strikes me as a precise and evocative distillation of all that’s gone before.

The two stanzas that make up Part 3 are probably the most haunting. Those long, sustained orchestral lines and Hannigan’s mirrored responses to them are simply exquisite. Not only that, they’re extremely moving. And while Ophelia may be looking to the future there’s something of the gloaming here, of Strauss in farewell mode. The BRSO play with hushed intensity under the sure, steady guidance of Andris Nelsons. However, it’s Hannigan’s frankly astounding blend of precision and feeling, especially in the closing stanzas, that deserves the most praise. The clear, detailed recording is very good, even though the soloist seems a little close at times.

I don’t love the piece – at least, not yet – but I do admire it; give it a go.

Dan Morgan

 




Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

 

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Arcodiva
Atoll 10% off
CDAccord
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Hortus
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sheva £2 off
Sheva Contemporary
Sterling 10% off
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger