Hans AbrahamsenTen preludes
Hans Abrahamsen, one of Denmark’s most prominent composers, wrote his first pieces in the late 1960s, before he had even begun to study composition. In his early works, he aligned himself with the influential ‘New Simplicity’ movement, which aimed to establish an opposing force to complex central European modernism, particularly the ‘Darmstadt School’. They valued clarity, translucency in texture, the use of specific stylistic elements and objectivity in approach. From the late 1970s onwards, Abrahamsen began to employ an approach that was more subjective, described as “poetic” or “romantic”, and he adhered to this even after returning to composition after a hiatus that lasted for nearly all of the 1990s.
Ten Preludes for string quartet (1973) is one of the key works of Abrahamsen’s early period and the first in his series of four string quartets. It represents the ideals of ‘New Simplicity’, and, as the composer said, “it consists of ten short pieces – or maybe beginnings written in a new simplistic (or minimalistic) and poly-stylistical style”. In 2010, he adapted the work for orchestra under the title Ten Sinfonias.
The movements display a variety of stylistic approaches: the opening movement, for instance, erupts with an edgy dissonance, but there are also more emotional and minimalist repetitive movements with a very simple texture. The movements are separated by very brief pauses (quasi attacca) or longer pauses (non attacca) or, in the case of the transition to the last movement, with no pause at all (attacca subito). The stylistic palette becomes clearer as the work progresses; the penultimate movement is a monophonic melody resembling a folk tune, and the final movement is a vivacious Baroque dance pastiche down to the binary form with repeats.