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Label: Sono Luminus
Cat No: DSL92243
Format: Blu-ray Audio + CD
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 19th March 2021
In Seventh Heaven
ArtistsPekka Kuusisto (violin)
Mario Caroli (flute)
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
‘Three of the composers represented on Occurrence return from previous installments in the series. In addition to Bjarnson – who also has served as an insightful, sympathetic conductor throughout – we hear new works from Þuríður Jónsdóttir, whose Flow and Fusion opened the initial album, Recurrence, and from Haukur Tómasson, whose Piano Concerto no.2 was a highlight of the second release in the series, Concurrence.
‘These repeat engagements prove serendipitous, showing off fresh facets of these newly familiar creators. One, Bjarnason’s own Violin Concerto, scarcely requires introduction, having proved its merits and attractions already on concert platforms around the globe since its 2017 world premiere at the Hollywood Bowl. Pekka Kuusisto, the violinist for whom the piece was written, demonstrates his consummate skill as a virtuoso, a collaborator and – not least – a whistler, and the orchestral accompaniment, no surprise, is vivid and alert.
‘Where in Flow and Fusion Þuríður Jónsdóttir fashioned an electronic component derived from sounds produced by orchestral instruments, in Flutter she invites the outside world in. Commissioned to create a piece marking the centenary of Olivier Messiaen, who famously incorporated birdsong into his music through transcription, Jónsdóttir accompanies solo flute and orchestra with sampled grasshoppers and crickets—who prove charming accompanists.
‘A similar continuity of technique and spirit applies in Tómasson’s In Seventh Heaven, which, like the previously heard piano concerto, eschews athletic display and histrionic gestures in favor of continuously shifting textures. The music, composed for the opening of Reykjavik’s stunning Harpa Concert Hall, shimmers, glints, recedes, and jolts, transforming with the elemental unpredictability of light playing across Harpa’s dramatic crystalline exterior.
‘Each of the two newcomers to the ISO Project heard on Occurrence, Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson and Veronique Vaka, reveals still further aspects of the ongoing story that is Icelandic music. Jóhannsson (1925-2005), a composer, pianist, conductor, and radio producer who completed his education at the Juilliard School, is viewed as Iceland’s first 12-tone composer, and among its electronic-music pioneers, as well. But in Adagio, composed in 1980 after a silence of nearly a decade, Jóhannsson abandoned his previous tools, embracing instead a melancholy lyricism all his own.
‘If Jóhannsson’s piece suggests that Icelandic music flourishes when a creator dispenses with imported techniques and idioms, Vaka’s Lendh offers proof that Iceland will gladly welcome a newcomer who arrives ready to embrace its spirit and custom. Vaka, a Canadian composer and cellist, completed her master’s degree in Reykjavik, and then settled in southern Iceland. She based Lendh on her impressions of Krýsuvík, a gorgeously rugged geothermal area 35 kilometers away from the capital.
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