Icelandic composer Haflidi Hallgrímsson's Mini Stories can be performed either in a concert presentation or as a theater piece. The work uses 12 very short stories by Daniil Kharms, a pseudonym for Soviet absurdist author Daniil Ivanovich Iuvachev, who died during the Second World War. The stories, spoken by an actor, are unrelated and have an unnervingly surreal, spooky quality. Most seem more like the eccentric ramblings of a deeply disturbed character than a coherent narrative. Hallgrímsson doesn't provide much guidance about their meaning, since his explicit intention was to contradict the stories in his music. Each story is lightly underscored and followed by a musical interlude. The music itself is largely ephemeral, and except for the "Victory Boogie Woogie" at the end of the cycle, fails to have much of a clear, expressive purpose. The 50-minute work leaves a perplexing impression as a purely aural experience, but it's possible to imagine that in a dramatic setting, with imaginative staging, it could make a stronger impact. British actor Simon Callow performs the stories with an appropriate mixture of bemusement and detachment. The Icelandic Caput Ensemble plays and sings with virtuosity and commitment. Signum's sound has good balance and is clean and present.
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Review by Stephen Eddins