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Hans Abrahamsen : String Quartet No. 4

Commissioned by Westdeutscher Rundfunk with support from Siemens Musikstiftung and Wigmore Hall
Publisher Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed 2012
20 Minutes
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Full Score(s) WH31498
Set(s) of Parts WH31498A

Programme Note

1. Light and airy (High in the Sky Singing)
2. With motion (Dance of Light)
3. Dark, heavy and earthy (with a heavy groove)
4. Gently Rocking (with utmost sensitivity, babbling)

The basic idea for my Fourth String Quartet was very clear to me: It should be quiet and soft music or to put it in a german term: "hoch im Himmel gesungen ..." (”High singing in heaven…”).

Each of the four movements has a different scordatura/pitch. The first movement begins – like my work ”Schnee” – Sky-high with an airy and soft melody by the first violin. The second movement is fast and ”movement and joy”-like. It consists of two duets and a reverse style counterpoint. While the sections were progressively longer in the first movement they are getting shorter and shorter in the second. ”Dark, heavy and earthy” is the third movement and its pizzicato recalls big black raindrops falling to the ground. It is the dark and grainy counterpart to the first movement whereas the fourth movement corresponds to the second. The fourth movement was planned as a dark and heavy counterpart but it turned out to be like ”babbling” music of a child.

My Fourth String Quartet has become in its way a serene and cool piece. So the Quartet has been finished luckyly after twenty years – it was already in 1990 that I was commissioned by Wittener Tage für Neue Musik to write the piece for Arditti Quartet.

Hans Abrahamsen


  • ... a wonderfully elusive piece made up of two interlocking pairs of movements, with the second of each pair a dark shadow of the first: the glassy harmonics of the opening movement are brought down to earth in the pizzicatos of the third, while the second's fast, wispy textures take more solid form in the folksy melodies of the finale.
    Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 01/11/2012
  • Hans Abrahamsen's serene "String Quartet no. 4" was something of an odd man out [...] but I loved it
    Doundou Tchil, Classical Iconoclast, 01/11/2012


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