Hans Abrahamsen's Concerto For Piano And Orchestra was composed in 1999, by commission for the BIT-20 Ensemble. A complex and multi-layered work, opening with highly minimal material and very slowly building to an ecstatic frenzy across the four movements. As the piece progresses Abrahamsen has also included some significant nods towards composers Gyorgy Ligeti (a former teacher of the composer) and Gustav Mahler.
The work was premiered at the Ultima Festival in Oslo in 2000 with Anne Marie Abildskov as soloist.
I Allegro Volante e nervoso
II Adagio innocente e semplice
III Tempo de grandegioia
IV Fluente ma tranquillo
‘The piano concerto starts entirely as I usually start, with this filigree in the piano and many simultaneous layers,’ Hans Abrahamsen has explained ‘The beginning is music that could continue almost minimalistically ad infinitum. But it doesn’t. Instead it has a seizure after just thirty seconds. It literally comes to a halt!’
There is no programmatic structure behind the four-movement course of the concerto, but a romantically minded listener may be tempted to interpret the development from a quick stalling of the familiar through the introduction (by the lyrical second movement) of something much more ‘innocent and simple’, as it says - something feminine, one feels like adding - to the third movement’s flashing firework display of a scherzo, which draws the curtain aside for a liberating rush of joy, as life after the advent of love. However, the undersigned assumes full responsibility for this interpretation.
The piano soloist is the undisputed main character in the concerto, and plays almost constantly in the first three movements. It is only in the fourth movement that she takes a break and listens. ‘The piano stirs up an anthill’, is Hans Abrahamsen’s own description, ‘and it becomes almost operatic! It is as if the music is about to fall right out over the edge of the abyss at the drastic general pause to which the second movement, the key movement of the work, builds up.’