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  • Daniel Bjarnason (b. 1979):
  • 1Bjarnason: Violin Concerto23:42
  • Veronique Vaka (b. 1986):
  • 2Vaka: Lendh11:37
  • Haukur Tómasson (b. 1960):
  • 3Tómasson: In Seventh Heaven07:13
  • Thurídur Jónsdóttir (b. 1967):
  • 4Jónsdóttir: Flutter20:51
  • Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson (1938 - 2005):
  • 5Jóhannsson: Adagio07:19
  • Total Runtime01:10:42

Info for Occurrence

“Occurrence is the third, and at least for now the last, in a hugely illuminating series devoted to works by contemporary Icelandic composers, as performed by Iceland’s 70-year-old national orchestra. Speaking for myself – and surely for many others, as well – the series has been a milestone project, one that any conscientious collector of symphonic music simply must have on the shelf. Across three CDs now, Sono Luminus has capitalized shrewdly on swelling global interest in the music of Daníel Bjarnason and Anna Thorvaldsdottir, using their works as a means by which to introduce seven more composers with original, substantial voices.

Three of the composers represented on Occurrence return from previous installments in the series. In addition to Bjarnason – who also has served as an insightful, sympathetic conductor throughout – we hear new works from Þuríður Jónsdóttir, whose Flow and Fusion opened the initial disc, 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 contin- uously 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.

“I have analysed the geologic and geographic features of the area,” Vaka wrote in a program note that accompanied the work’s premiere in 2019, “and transformed the landscape as I perceive it into musical notation.” If the question of whether a country can be heard in the sound of its music is one that has run throughout the three volumes of The ISO Project, the precipitous contours and roiling energy of Lendh provide a potent affirmation.” — Steve Smith

Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Daníel Bjarnason, conductor
Pekka Kuusisto, violin
Mario Caroli, flute

Daníel Bjarnason
Icelandic conductor and composer Daníel Bjarnason is currently artist in residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. From season 16/17, Daniel will be composer in residence at the Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven. A co-curator of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Reykjavik Festival, Daniel will be featured as both a conductor and composer in Los Angeles in April 2017.

Recent and upcoming commissions include works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Rambert Dance Company, Britten Sinfonia, Jennifer Koh, So Percussion, Calefax and the Calder Quartet. Daníel is writing his first opera for the Danish National Opera in Aarhus and will be premiered in August 2017 as part of the Aarhus – Culture Capital of Europe celebrations. Based on the Susanne Bier film Brothers, the opera will be directed by Kasper Holten, and Steffen Aarfing will create the stage design. The librettist is Kerstin Perski.

Daníel Bjarnason’s music has been described as “coming eerily close to defining classical music’s undefinable brave new world” (Time Out New York), under conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, John Adams James Conlon, André de Ridder, Louis Langree and Ilan Volkov in venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, Lincoln Center, Harpa and the Barbican. Daníel’s versatility has also led to collaborations with a broad array of musicians outside the classical field including Sigur Rós, Brian Eno, Efterklang and Ben Frost.

Conducting engagements include appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Ulster Orchestra, Sinfonietta Cracovia, and The Icelandic Opera.

Bjarnason’s work has been recognised on numerous occasions at the the Icelandic Music Awards. This year with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Opera, he received the award for Best Performer for their performance of Peter Grimes. Previously he won Best Composer/Best Composition in 2010 for Processions and Composer of the Year, 2013 for his works The Isle Is Full of Noises and Over Light Earth. Also in 2013, he and Ben Frost won the Edda Award for best soundtrack for their score to film The Deep, directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

After studying piano, composition and conducting in Reykjavík, Daníel Bjarnason pursued further studies in orchestral conducting at University of Music Freiburg. Daniel is a member of Bedroom Community, the Icelandic record label and close-knit collective comprising nine like-minded, yet diverse musicians from different corners of the globe. Daníel Bjarnason is published by Peters Edition.

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