Barbara Hannigan sings Abrahamsen’s Let me tell you

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COMPOSERS: Hans Abrahamsen
LABELS: Winter & Winter
ALBUM TITLE: Abrahamsen
WORKS: Let me tell you
PERFORMER: Barbara Hannigan (sop); Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
CATALOGUE NO: Winter & Winter 910 232-2


Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s mesmerising song-cycle is based on Paul Griffiths’s experimental novella of the same title, whose protagonist is described as ‘not quite the Ophelia of Shakespeare’s Hamlet’. Using only words uttered by Ophelia in the play, Griffiths’s book circles new themes of music and memory, here further adapted by the author into seven poems for these songs.

Abrahamsen expresses both the fragility and force of Griffiths’s imagined Ophelia through glinting, gauze-like textures and moments of clattering tumult; the richly varied vocal writing draws on Monteverdi’s technique of ‘stile concitato’ where the voice rapidly repeats a single tone, here capturing both Ophelia’s doubt and urgency. Barbara Hannigan’s agile, luminous voice is ideal, and sings with power and subtlety, superbly matched by Andris Nelsons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.


Kate Wakeling