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World premiere of “Vers le silence”, by Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen.

The Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, offers today, January 6th, the world premiere of Vers le silence, a nearly half-hour orchestral work composed by the Danish Hans Abrahamsen (Copenhagen, 1952) during the confinement caused by covid-19 in the spring of 2020. As conductor Esben Tange explained, on this occasion and for the first time since Nacht und Trompeten, a piece from 1981, “Abrahamsen has composed a brand new purely orchestral work, not a concerto for one or more soloists, nor an orchestral work based on previous works.” This is the final part of a series of three works begun with Left, alone, for left-handed pianist and orchestra (2015) and the Concerto for Horn and Orchestra (2019). Comprising four movements, the work is longer in duration than the other two, and the format is also larger.

Despite the external differences, Tange goes on to explain, “all three works are built on the same foundation: the tempo, rhythm and harmony of the music are based on the first nine prime numbers. By using these prime numbers with their superb nature and irregular relationship to each other, Hans Abrahamsen manages to create an original architecture for his music, both in the grand form and in smaller sections of the music that are proportional to each other.”

The title, moreover, “also refers to Alexander Scriabin’s Vers la flamme, where the music moves towards the flame, whereas in Vers le silence it is the silence that is nurtured and gradually takes over. The silence is a catalyst for a musical journey which after the emotionally torn fire music of the beginning, at the end moves towards a more transpersonal and metaphysical world”.

Vers le silence, which is dedicated to fellow English composer George Benjamin, was commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra and the orchestra of the Dutch public broadcaster NTR. The German premiere, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will take place on 5 May – in München -, while the premieres in Denmark – to be conducted by Thomas Søndergaard – and the Netherlands, by the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Stéphane Denève, will not take place until the beginning of the 2022-23 season.

© Photograph by Lars Skaaning, downloaded from the website of Hans Abrahamsen’s publisher, Wise Music Classical.