Siggi String Quartet

South of the Circle

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The contents of this release by Iceland's Siggi String Quartet include, as the title suggests, Icelandic music. The five string quartets involved, slow-moving and spacious, fit with a good deal of recent music from Scandinavian countries in being evocative of natural landscapes. However, they also manage to do this while, for the most part, embodying some kind of abstract organizational principle. Something of a centerpiece is Valgeir Sigurðsson's Nebraska, written for a string quartet in residence in that state, which was inspired by imagined geological and physical correspondences between Iceland and Nebraska. Una Sveinbjarnardóttir's Opacity (it is a bit difficult to determine exactly what is "opaque" about it) is perhaps unique in the entire history of string quartet music: it devotes each of its four movements to one of the four instruments of the string quartet. Sample Mamiko Dís Ragnarsdóttir's Fair Flowers for an idea of the dual aesthetic of this music: the work is organized according to a strict system of synesthetic colors. Several of these composers have worked with Björk, as well as other pop composers whose work intersects with the classical world, and the album should be of considerable interest to fans of Icelandic music in general. Recommended.

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