Danish composer nets $125,000

Danish composer nets $125,000


norman lebrecht

January 31, 2018

Hans Abrahamsen is the 2019 winner of the Denmark-based Sonning Award, succeeding Maris Jansons.

He is the first Dane to win in a decade.


  • John Borstlap says:

    Congratulations to Mr Abrahamsen…..What an extremely lucky circumstance that he can get money for this sort of thing:


    • José says:

      Maybe one day you got one too, Borstlap. If you don’t die first (oh, we’ll miss you so much).

    • Hilary says:

      Marking his return to composition after a lengthy gap, the expressionist soundworld of these pieces isn’t immediately recognisable as the same composer of either Schnee (first 20mins or so are sensationally beautiful, and then the tension sags) or the recent concerto for left hand ( highlight of the London Sinfonietta’s 50th Birthday Concert last week).

    • FS60103 says:

      Compose something as original and beautiful as “Let Me Tell You” and then we can talk.

      • John Borstlap says:

        “Let me tell you” is a relatively late work, in which Abrahamsen is moving towards tonality and a more traditional approach. But much of his work is mere conventional, ‘hip’ modern, enough mannerisms of which can be heard in “Let… etc”. As for originality, it is not more original than his other work, or all the originalities of the usual (post-)modern works we hear today, so that term does not support this angry comment.

        Prizes are given to convention, NOT to originality or beauty, because those things are much more difficult to discern, as this comment confirms. Therefore it can safely be assumed that the mentioned prize has been awarded not for the expressive qualities of this song cycle – which are there, to some extent – but because of it’s loyalties to ‘modern hip’. And let’s not forget that Griffiths (author of the texts of ‘Let..’) is an oldfashioned, established party member of modernism – so, a truly safe text.

        An interesting comparison with a song cycle which I think is much better, is Peter Lieberson’s “Neruda Songs” – without the usual modernist mannerisms:



    • Melisande says:

      How sour and cynical one can get!
      Mr. Abrahamsen was also rewarded the Grawemeyer Award in 2015.
      And on top: Abrahamsens work ‘let me tell you’, is performed by the soprano Barbara Hannigan, who is recently awarded a Grammy for her recording ‘Crazy Girl Crazy’ with the Ludwig Ensemble.
      Instead of snow is gradually thaw setting in on the musical creativity of Mr. J.B.?

      • John Borstlap says:

        My comment was not ‘sour’ and ‘cynical’ at all, just observing the obvious. And that song cycle is really nice indeed and well-made, moving a bit into traditional directions (which is therefore better than lots of his other works), but still suffering from modernist mannerisms. I think – as a comparison – that Lieberson’s and Bacri’s cycles are better, because they avoid the obvious conventional ‘modern’ mannerisms (‘modern’ of half a century ago, that is):



    • Jonathan Grieves-Smith says:

      Agreed. A terrific composer and excellently judged award

      • Jonathan Grieves-Smith says:

        It’s just the order of incoming messages but I would like to make clear I was not agreeing to John Borstlap’s previous message (re modernist mannerisms, etc?!?) but simply expressing delight at this being awarded to such a fine composer

  • Anon says:

    Didn’t he just a couple of years ago also bag the Siemens Music prize for another six digit monetary renumeration?

  • Janne Seppänen says:

    Well deserved! One of the most fascinating composers working today.

    Let me tell you is one of the most moving scores ever written, I’m completely in love with it.