Icelandic Orchestral Works

MAGNUS BLÖNDAL JÓHANNSSON (1925-2005): Adagio, DANÍEL BJARNASON (b.1979): Violin Concerto (Pekka Kuusisto [violin]), THURÍÐUR JÓNSDÓTTIR (b.1967): Flutter for Flute and Orchestra (Mario Caroli [flute]), VERONIQUE VAKA (b.1986): Lendh, HAUKUR TÓMASSON (b.1960): In Seventh Heaven.

Catalogue Number: 03W058

Label: Sono Luminus

Reference: DSL-92243

Format: CD

Price: $19.98

Description: The third volume in this stimulating series, which continues to answer the question "Can you hear a country in its music?" in the affirmative. Hearing these five immensely impressive works, very different from one another yet seemingly hewn from the same rugged material, it is impossible not to hear evocations of Iceland's breathtakingly majestic and otherworldly landscapes in all of them. Bjarnason's powerful, brooding concerto was written for Kuusisto, but while it fully acknowledges and deploys the soloist's breathtaking virtuosity, its imposing granitic forms, volcanic eruptions and procellous outbursts in dense, dark orchestral textures suggest something more akin to a symphonic poem narrating some epic saga set in a looming, caliginous landscape than to a conventional virtuoso vehicle. The soloist opens the work with a soliloquy, and returns several times in cadenza-like passages with the suggestion of a bardic narration of the drama in which it participates throughout the body of the work, which plays continuously but falls into sections approximating the structure of a four-movement work. Vaka's Lendh is explicitly a landscape piece, depicting the rugged terrain of a geothermally active region of Iceland. The work's surging tectonic floes seem to condense æons of inexorable geological activity into a mere quarter-hour. Like the other works here, the composer’s vocabulary is rooted in tonal harmony despite its suggestion of sonoristic masses of texture. Tómasson's piece was composed for the opening of Reykjavik’s Harpa Concert Hall, and like the Piano Concerto on the previous volume (12V064) it forms a cohesive and dynamic whole from a profusion of small, tonal fragments and gestures that swarm, glitter and detonate in formation, simulating the play of light across the towering façade of the building, designed to emulate crystals in basalt rocks. Þuríður Jónsdóttir's Flutter was composed for Messiaen's centenary. The flute concerto suggests a natural soundscape (subtly populated by the sampled sounds of insects), in which the solo instrument chirrups in swooping arabesques, related - not too closely - to the French composer’s transcribed birdsong. In keeping with the Icelandic atmosphere of these works, the accompanying landscape is harsher and chillier, more ominous, than the typical environment of Messiaen's avian portraits. Jóhannsson was a prolific modernist in his early career, but he returned to composition later in life after a nearly ten-year hiatus, abandoning his earlier formal complexity in favor of a deeply melancholy simplicity in this Adagio, in which a very slow melody hangs almost motionless over profound subterranean rumblings, almost suggesting a kind of tenebrous "ambient" music. Iceland Symphony Orchestra; Daníel Bjarnason. CD+ Blu-ray audio disc.


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