This Friday Series concert highlights the Iceland Symphony’s string section, which performs two masterpieces from the early 20th century. It took Arnold Schönberg a mere three weeks to write Transfigured Night, a string sextet based on the eponymous poem that tells the story of two lovers walking in the forest by moonlight. This emotionally charged work has long since been considered one of the cornerstones of turn-of-the-century music, yet the initial response to it was lukewarm. In fact, one of Schönberg’s colleagues quipped that it “sounded as if someone had smeared the score of Tristan und Isolde while it was still wet.”
Bartók wrote his Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, a milestone in his career, in 1936. It has been called “one of the purest and most perfectly proportioned distillations of Bartók’s mature style”, a work that is “simultaneously primitive and sophisticated; wild and controlled; serene and terrifying; serious and slapstick.” Conductor Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason has drawn considerable attention for his outstanding work with the Iceland Symphony and the Icelandic Opera, where he holds the post of Music Director. At this concert he is right at home, conducting two of his personal favourites.
Concerts in the Friday Series are about an hour long and provide the perfect warm-up to a relaxing weekend.