Official: Dane wins biggest composer prize

Official: Dane wins biggest composer prize


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2015

Word is out that this year’s $100,00 Grawemeyer Award for music composition has gone to Hans Abrahamsen.

The announcement of the award is not due until next Monday but, as we said, word is out.

hans abrahamsen

If there’s such a thing as a happy Dane, Hans is it.

The award is for his song cycle, ‘let me tell you’, with texts by Paul Griffiths.

UPDATE: It appears Musical America has been obliged to take down its leak of this award.

2nd UPDATE: It has just gone live.

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — let me tell you, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra, has earned Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen the 2016 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

**Note: Due to a news embargo break this information, originally scheduled for Nov. 30 @ 10 p.m., is being announced early**

Abrahamsen’s half-hour work presents a first-person narrative by Ophelia, the tragic noblewoman from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The libretto by Paul Griffiths is adapted from his 2008 novel—also titled “let me tell you”—and consists of seven poems created using only the minimal vocabulary that Shakespeare originally scripted for Ophelia.



  • John Borstlap says:

    Let me tell you that the singer premiering ‘Let me tell you’, Mrs Hannigan, does not like to ask the meaning of anything. What?! Yes, she says so herself, as the excellent interpreter she is:

    Because what she thinks anything might mean, is changing all the time. What?! Yes, she says so herself. Also, the text has been ‘taken from Shakespeare but the librettist has completely changed the order of the words’. Why? Could he not think of something himself, write a new text? Why going-back to Shakespeare and change everything, like Regietheater taking an existing opera and changing the meaning of it all so that something else comes out at the other end, instead of writing a new opera? The meaning of the result, Hannigan says, is elusive – no wonder if you don’t want to ask yourself what the meaning of anything may be and if any meaning is changing all the time anyway. After that, Ophelia suddenly comes into existence as crossing the distance of a couple of hundreds of years, and she seems to have witnessed all that time, including feminism…. And so it goes on. We can make of this what we want, but the sound does not seem to need such ‘listening manual’.

    Other pieces also seem to need lots of wrapping paper, but in fact, it is all pretty conventional:

  • Nigel Harris says:

    I obviously can’t judge the relative merits of this and the other pieces it beat, but was nevertheless very glad to read this. I heard it in Birmingham last season, and thought it was the most original and sheerly beautiful contemporary work I’d heard for some time, especially as performed by the wonderful Barbara Hannigan. I see a CD of it with her, Nelsons and the Bavarian RSO is due out soon. Snap it up, would be my advice.

  • Melisande says:

    Congratulations to Mr. Hans Abrahamsen. His great three-part song cycle, ‘Let me tell you’ is an impressive and unforgettable work, that I was lucky to hear in the Dutch premiere in Amsterdam during the so-called Saturday Matinee, March 2014, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The soprano was the always amazing Barbara Hannigan.
    For those interested: on the digitalconcerthall of the Berliner Philharmoniker, caption Interviews, you can witness and hear Abrahamsen, Hannigan and Griffith converse about this work (for free!). Duration: 18:31 minutes.Date: 21/12/2013.


    What the (expletive deleted) do you mean by ” such a thing as a happy Dane”? We are the happiest people in the World, and reading about all the troubles in the musical world in your column make us even happier!