Concurrences – Icelandic music refreshingly diverse

This release features all world premiere recordings by Icelandic composers. If there’s a common thread that gives this music an “Icelandic” quality, I didn’t hear it. What I did hear were four talented composers expressing themselves in four very different ways.

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra directed by Daniel Bjarnason delivers exciting performances of some very difficult music. And the ensemble is exceptionally well-recorded, too. The fine details revealed in the recording are essential to the success of some of these works.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s “Metacosmos” starts the program. It’s a tightly-knit web of motifs. They interact and change, yet always retain their identities.

The Piano Concerto No. 2 of Thomasson is quite different. The work builds slowly in a minimalist fashion. Rhythmic patterns play against each other, increasing in tension as the work progresses. The shifting relationships between the patterns and those between the piano and orchestra seem to reinvent the concerto concept.

“Oceans” by Sogfimsttir reminded me slightly of Kaija Saariaho. But only slightly. Sgfimstter uses long, sustained chords that change very slowly over time. But her sound clouds have a thicker texture than Sarriahos. This is a work of contemplative beauty.

Palsson’s work “Quake” also reminded me of another work — the “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” by Penderecki. While similar, the emotional center of the work is quite different. Quake communicates mystery and foreboding rather than sorrow.

This is actually the second volume in this series. I’m very sorry I missed the first.

Music by Anna Torvaldsdóttir, Hauker Tómasson, Maria Huld, Markan Sifgusdóttir, Páll Ragnar Palsson
Saeunn Thorsteindóttir, cello
Iceland Symphony Orchestra; Daniel Bjarnason, conductor
Sono Luminus DSL-92237
World Premiere Recordings

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