Jon Leifs - Complete Songs | BIS BIS2170

Jon Leifs - Complete Songs


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Label: BIS

Cat No: BIS2170

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Vocal/Choral

Release Date: 1st April 2016



Something of a cult figure, Jón Leifs (1899-1968) is especially known for spectacular orchestral works often inspired by the natural phenomena of his native Iceland – such as volcanoes (Hekla) or waterfalls (Dettífoss) – or the great Icelandic sagas (Saga Symphony, and the large-scale, unfinished Edda oratorio). But throughout a turbulent life, Leifs also composed a number of solo songs all of which are gathered here. Many of these 32 songs (including several folk song arrangements) give unusually clear insights into the composer: more than Leifs’ work in any other genre, his song writing was often inspired by deeply personal events in his life, and consequently span a huge range of emotion and expression, from delicate lullabies to the most forceful of epic songs. This is brought out by Finnur Bjarnason and Örn Magnússon, both stalwart champions of the music by their compatriot in concert and on disc. Bjarnason has previously appeared on BIS in the substantial Gróa’s Spell for alto, tenor and orchestra (BISCD1080), while Magnússon has recorded Leifs’ complete piano music for the label. The present performances were originally released on the Smekkleysa label, in 2001, as a two-disc set. For this release they have been remastered and combined on a single disc by BIS Records, in the hope that they will reach a new and wider audience, serving as an introduction to and deepening the understanding of a highly individual voice in twentieth-century music.


These valuable recordings were first released on the enterprising, innovative yet elusive Icelandic label, Smekkleysa. They’ve been difficult to obtain for a while, so this remastering by the more accessible BIS is welcome. As with all composers, the songs of Iceland’s father-figure, Jon Leifs, provide a revealing microcosm of his creative mind and imagination.  Hilary Finch
BBC Music Magazine August 2016

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