Nick Abadzis

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A Weekly Song Extra - Johannes Hirschmann

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I’d like to bring your attention to a young composer who has been kind enough to share his music with me. Johannes Hirschmann might initially seem to be in a similar mould as various other modern classical composers, and while there’s a similar sensibility in play, I haven’t heard anything like this kind of subtlety and expressive delicacy in a while.

Johannes’ new album Fragments has just been released (19th April) and I’ve been listening to an advance copy for a few weeks now. It showcases an audacious ability and range; every sound on this album is created “in-piano” so to speak, and that observation absolutely does not do it justice. There are a variety of tonal effects and glissandos, moments where the music glides and then breaks with where you think it might go, a kind of sleight-of-hand and subversion of expectations. It possesses both a playfulness and dramatic, glacial edge that nonetheless takes the listener back to moments of great warmth. This organic quality, I suspect, comes from each piece’s origin in improvisation. Johannes composes by beginning with small thematic fragments which, by turns, he expands upon and develops into more complete pieces.

If you read the piece I posted on Ólafur Arnalds and enjoy his music, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this recommendation too, especially if you’re familiar with Arnalds’ collaboration with the extraordinary Alice Sara Ott, whose music I discovered via their Chopin Project, wherein they reinterpret some of that great romantic composer’s works, while being very mindful of the environment they’re played and recorded in. That, Nils Frahm’s inventiveness and Craig Armstrong’s Piano Works are perhaps the nearest workable comparison(s) I have for the self-authored pieces Johannes presents on Fragments, perhaps because there’s such a sense of mood and place to them. 

Here’s Johannes’ YouTube channel where you can listen to earlier work – please do subscribe. Better yet, check out Fragments. In an age where it’s difficult for any artist to get seen or heard, when there’s less and less institutional support for musicians, writers and visual artists, please do anything you can to support us.

Looking forward to hearing what’s next and seeing where Johannes goes from here – to my mind he has already joined the likes of Arnalds, Ott, Frahm, Max Richter, Yann Tiersen, Nico Muhly and other modern composers of such standing as an intriguing and enjoyably unpredictable experimentalist. 

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