Schnee - Ten Canons For Nine Instruments was composed by Hans Abrahamsen in 2006-08.
Commissioned by Westdeutscher Rundfunk for 'Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik 2008' with support from Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung and The Danish Arts Council. Dedicated to Harry Vogt and Ensemble Recherche.
In the beginning of the 90s, I arranged some of J.S. Bach’s canons for ensemble – in total seven single standing works from his entire life span. I became totally absorbed into this music and arranged them with the intention of the music being repeated many, many times, as a kind of minimal music. Obviously, I didn’t know which durations Bach had in mind, but by listening to his canons in this way, a profound new moving world of circular time was opened to me.
Depending on the perspective on these canons, the music and its time can stand still or move either backwards or forwards.
In my own work, an ongoing idea has persisted, of at some point writing a work consisting of a number of canonical movements that would explore this universe of time. And when I was offered the commission for Ensemble Recherche and Wittener Tage, it felt as the right time to do this.
In Schnee, a few simple and fundamental musical questions are explored. What is a Vorsatz? And what is a Nachsatz? Can a phrase be answering? Or questioning?
The guideline or rule for the canons is very simple: We start out with an answering Vorsatz, followed by a questioning Nachsatz. Throughout the time of the piece, these two are intertwined more and more, as more and more dicht geführt canons, until, at the end, they are interchanged. Now the question and then the answer. The two canons are identical like a painting in two versions, but with different colors. And where the first one does not include the space, the second one does, as well as containing more canonical traces.
The nine instruments are divided into two groups: the first one situated to the left consists of piano 1, violin, viola and cello, and the second group on the right of piano 2 (pianino), flute, oboe and clarinet. In the middle is the percussion.