Daníel Bjarnason / Iceland Symphony Orchestra


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Take these Icelandic works as representational, as suggested by the titles Oceans and Quake, and perhaps Metacosmos. Or take them as abstract, along the lines of the title Concurrence (and that of the successful predecessor to this album, Recurrence). It doesn't really matter: the perspectives converge in the music, which is virtuosic and dense, yet elemental and viscerally affecting. The four works might be grouped in several ways. Haukur Tómasson's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Páll Ragnar Pálsson's Quake each make use of a solo instrument (in Pálsson's case a cello), and listeners could easily become engrossed in the treatment of the soloist in these two works alone. The soloists are neither representations of an individual in the classical concerto sense nor decorative in function, but rather shift in their relationships to the orchestra, like living beings. Metacosmos, by Anna Thorvaldsdóttir, is the only work that may be already known to North American audiences; it was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 2018 but receives an edgier performance here. Metacosmos and Maria Huld Markns Sigfúsdóttir's Oceans live up to the monumentality suggested by their titles. Throughout, the orchestral writing is difficult, but here comes off as brilliant, and the four works involved, although quite distinct and reflective of individual compositional personalities, cohere into what might become a new orchestral style that uses traditional instruments and is neither neo-Romantic nor confined to modernist systems. This music requires sound engineering that delivers superb transparency and resolution, and it receives this here from Sono Luminus, working in two separate auditoriums at Harpa Hall in Reykjavik.

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