Born in 1952, Hans Abrahamsen is one of the younger representatives of the Danish movement toward "new simplicity" (ny enkelhed), which developed in the 1960s and 1970s.
His pieces, mostly quite short, are marked by very light, finely orchestrated textures, a lack of harsh dissonance, and the use of collage and pastiche.
Abrahamsen studied music history, theory, and French horn at the Royal Danish Conservatory in Copenhagen, while studying composition privately with Per Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, two of the founders of the "new simplicity" movement. In the 1970s, Abrahamsen's music was known for a simple, almost naïve, use of contrasting blocks of material, often built of three-note cells, as in Skum (1970) for chamber orchestra, or the Ten Preludes for string quartet (1973). Abrahamsen subsequently developed a more complex and dramatic style, as exemplified by the Second String Quartet (1981) and Nacht und Trompeten for orchestra (1981), probably his most popular orchestral work to that point. During the 1990s, Abrahamsen wrote very few new works, doing arrangements and orchestrations of older music while he reevaluated his own style of composition. His first major work after this period was his Piano Concerto (2000), which combined his earlier economy of material with evocative expression.
In all his music, Abrahamsen has striven to make the instrumentation clear and delicate (he is an influential teacher of orchestration at the Royal Danish Conservatory). In 1990, Abrahamsen created, with Søren Hansen among others, the Århus Sinfonietta, which has been an important outlet for new music in Denmark. Abrahamsen's other works include arrangements for chamber ensemble of music by Satie, Nielsen, and Ravel.