HANS ABRAHAMSEN (b.1952): 10 Preludes (String Quartet No. 1), 6 Pieces for Violin, Horn and Piano, ERIK SATIE (1866-1925): 3 Gymnopédies (arr. Abrahamsen for Oboe and String Quartet), CARL NIELSEN (1865-1931): 2 Fantasy Pieces, Op. 2 (arr. Abrahamsen for Oboe and String Trio).
Catalogue Number: 07T064
Description: The quartet is an early work, from 1973, when Abrahamsen was a standard-bearer for the 'new simplicity' movement. But in Abrahamsen's hands, 'simplicity' doesn't mean 'simple-minded', nor does it imply blandly consonant 'easy listening'. Out of almost no material at all, he fashions ten Preludes of great character and diversity with widely different degrees of tonality and dissonance, referencing other musics and finally leading up to a delightful, completely unironic Baroque pastiche, as though to say "and you know, we've been here before". The Six Pieces are from ten years later, and are also simple, characterful and harmonious, though here with the added delight of the composer's exquisite ear for timbre (though to be fair there is a good measure of this in some of the unusual textures he conjures from the more conventional quartet lineup in the 10 Preludes). As is usual for Abrahamsen, there is a finely judged dramatic arc underlying the diversity; in the Six Pieces the work descends via a melancholy 'blues' to the stark 'funeral march' at the work's center of gravity, and ascends again to end in happy, childlike naïveté in the final piece. The Satie Gymnopedies were just waiting to be transcribed by Abrahamsen; their gentle, graceful melancholy is superbly rendered in dark, muted tones in his somberly respectful arrangements. The youthful Nielsen pieces likewise have their intrinsic character subtly emphasized by Abrahamsen's string timbres exploring the inner workings of the original piano parts. The combination of sorrowful seriousness and impertinent joyous swagger that remained characteristic of Nielsen's mature music are pointed up beautifully by these transcriptions. Ensemble MidtVest.