Léonie Sonning Prize 2019

Hans Abrahamsen

Haablars Skaaning 2014 12

Hans Abrahamsen to receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2019

Composer Hans Abrahamsen will receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2019 at a concert to be held on 26 April 2019 at the Concert House, DR Byen.


Hans Abrahamsen: let me tell you for soprano and orchestra. Lyrics by Paul Griffiths (2013)

Debussy: Children's Corner orchestrated by Hans Abrahamsen (2011)

Hans Abrahamsen: Left, alone for piano (left hand) and piano (2015)

Barbara Hannigan, soprano
Tamara Stefanovich, piano
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Michael Schønwandt

The prize concert will be the main event of a mini festival with music by Hans Abrahamsen at concerts in Copenhagen and Aarhus:

Wednesday, 24 April 2019. The Royal Danish Library, Queens Hall
Sinfonietta evening

Winternacht (1978/1987), Märchenbilder (1984), Schönberg Lieder Opus 2. Arr. Hans Abrahamsen, Piano concert (2000)

Barbara Hannigan, soprano. Manuel Esperilla, piano. Athelas Sinfonietta
Conductor: Thomas Søndergård
ensemble recherche

Thursday, 25 April 2019. The Royal Danish Academy of Music
Chamber music, evening

String quartet no. 4 (2012), 10 Studies for Piano (1983/1998), Traumlieder (1984/2009), 10 Preludes. String quartet no. 1 (1973)

Nordic String Quartet. Jens Elvekjær, piano. Trio con Brio
Concert introduction by Hans Abrahamsen in an interview with Esben Tange

Sunday, 28 April 2019. Århus Musikforening. Aarhus Concert Hall
Hans A til Folket! – chamber music and arrangements

Walden, Landscapes, Herbstlied, Six Pieces, Le Tombeau du Couperin, Kinderszenen, Trois Gynompedies by Satie, Two Fantasy Pieces by Nielsen,
Three Piano Pieces by Nielsen.
Esbjerg Ensemble and Ensemble MidtVest

Hans Abrahamsen is the 16th composer to be awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. Before him, the prize has been awarded to, among others, Igor Stravinskij (1959), Dmitri Shostakovich (1968), György Ligeti (1990), György Kurtág (2003), Kaija Saariaho (2011) and most recently Thomas Adès (2015).

Hans Abrahamsen is also the 5th Dane to be awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize following Mogens Wöldike (1976), Per Nørgård (1996), Michala Petri (2000) and Lars Ulrik Mortensen (2007).

The latest prize winner was violinist Leonidas Kavakos, who received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2017 on 12 January 2017. On Friday, 9 March 2018, conductor Mariss Jansons will receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2018.

The Léonie Sonning Music Prize amounts to EUR 100,000.

Photos of Hans Abrahamsen

These images can be used freely in relation to the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2019

Photos by Lars Skaaning © 2014

Hans Abrahamsen in brief

Hans Abrahamsen was born in Lyngby in 1952. He played the horn when he was young and was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 1969. Here, his interest in composition and music theory was aroused, and during the 1970’s, Hans Abrahamsen wrote his first significant works. With 10 Preludes, string quartet no. 1 (1973), he presents himself as an expressive, complete stylist who sets music free in a highly contrasting encounter between the honest – bound by musical form - and the powerfully emotional; and with the wind quintet Walden (1978), Hans Abrahamsen creates music which, by virtue of its “new simplicity”, contributes to the contemporary search for a harmonic co-existence with nature, while possessing a dreamily romantic side at the same time.

In the orchestral work, Nacht und Trompeten, Hans Abrahamsen is recognised on the international music scene. Both in this work and in Märchenbilder, Hans Abrahamsen opens a dialogue with the music of the past and creates his own musical language, which integrates gestures with modern, mesmerizing music rich in mystique. In the 1990’s, Hans Abrahamsen underwent a composition crisis, which left room for adapting and recomposing a number of works by Carl Nielsen, J.S. Bach and Schoenberg, among others.

With the completion in 1998 of 10 Studies for Piano and Concert for Piano and Orchestra dedicated to Anne Marie Abildskov, Hans Abrahamsen was revived as a composer. With an occasionally unrestrained minimalism and eruptive exclamations of joy, Hans Abrahamsen entered the new century. Throughout the first decade, a string of new works emerged several of which were created at the instance of the German music editor, Harry Vogt. This applies not least to Schnee, which is based on ancient canon techniques, and where notions of snow and a - in the composer’s own words - “white polyphony” open up to a wonderfully poetic world.

With let me tell you dedicated to Barbara Hannigan, Hans Abrahamsen reached a new compositional peak. Here, he re-creates Ophelia’s story from Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a spellbindingly beautiful work for soprano and orchestra. With Barbara Hannigan as an unparalleled emphatic interpreter in a symbiosis with Hans Abrahamsen’s soulful, wintry landscape, let me tell you is a masterpiece in the classical music of the 2010’s.

Hans Abrahamsen’s previous oeuvre consists not only of a number of works. They form a whole as the individual works are often based on a root which is present in his own, previous works. This also applies to the most recent work, Left, alone, for piano (left hand) and orchestra. In liberated and enchanted versatile music, Hans Abrahamsen reverts to the work of his youth, October, for horn and piano (left hand) - a piece which was performed in 1969 at the composer’s first performance of his own music.

A large number of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors have played Hans Abrahamsen’s music, including: The Berlin Philharmonic, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Cleveland Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductors Andris Nelsons, Sir Simon Rattle and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Hans Abrahamsen has also received a number of prizes. The most significant include the Carl Nielsen Prize in 1989 and in 2016 both the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for let me tell you and the Nordic Council Music Prize for let me tell you.

Hans Abrahamsen has taught composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, and has recently been appointed Adjunct Professor of composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Hans Abrahamsen’s first opera, Snedronningen, based on H.C. Andersen’s fairy tale, was commissioned by the Royal Danish Theatre and will be performed for the first time in the autumn of 2019 at the Opera House. The first English-language version of the opera, The Snow Queen, will be performed for the first time at Bayerische Staatsoper in season 2019-20.

See further information in the annex.

Esben Tange
Chairman of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation
Copenhagen, 30/1 2018

For additional information, contact Bente Legarth, Tel. +45 3334 4232, e-mail: sekretariat@sonningmusik.dk, or Torsten Hoffmeyer, Tel. 3334 4231

Ticket sales for the Prize Concert will open on 6/2 2018 (for subscribers) and 1/3 2018 (for others) via the website of the DR Concert House.