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Iceland Symphony at Dark Music Days

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The year 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the first Dark Music Days festival. Ever since the inaugural festival was opened by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra performing at Hamrahlíð College, the orchestra’s contribution to Dark Music Days has been one of the festival’s core events.

One of the architects of the festival in its infancy was composer Atli Heimir Sveinsson. Hjakk, written in 1979, was an important work in his career, drawing considerable attention and sparking much discussion at the time. In a newspaper review, Atli Heimir’s colleague Leifur Þórarinsson said, “The work hammers on in a delightfully resourceful way, reminiscent of sword dances and the like, or the music of factories and machinery from the days of Lenin & company.” A tense, relentless pulse permeates the work from beginning to end, and 40 years later is it still fresh, invigorating, and challenging.

Snorri Sigfús Birgisson was one of the youngest composers on the roster at the 1980 Dark Music Days festival, and his music was enthusiastically received. The 2020 festival includes the premiere of his Concerto for Orchestra, written in 2013-2015 and dedicated to the memory of his two dear friends, husband and wife Nora Kornblueh and Óskar Ingólfsson.

Composer Hugi Guðmundsson is well known for his music, both in Iceland and abroad. His most recent work is a concerto written for Danish accordion virtuoso Andreas Borregaard. Borregaard broke new ground as the first accordion student at London’s acclaimed Guildhall School of Music, and now performs all over the world, as well as teaching at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. His newly released recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations received brilliant reviews in the international media.

Bára Gísladóttir, a recent winner of Denmark’s coveted Léonie Sonning Talent Prize, wrote ÓS to commemorate the centenary of Iceland’s sovereignty. The work was premiered in Eldborg hall on 1 December 2018. Also on the programme is Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres), a vibrant work from 2013, written by American composer Missy Mazzoli for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Since then, it has been enthusiastically received at performances around the world. Currently composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony, Mazzoli has been described by The New York Times as “one of the more consistently inventive and surprising composers now working in New York.”

Daníel Bjarnason

Andreas Borregaard

  • Program

    Atli Heimir Sveinsson Hjakk

    Snorri Sigfús Birgisson Concerto for Orchestra, premiere


    Missy Mazzoli Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)

    Bára Gísladóttir ÓS

    Hugi Guðmundsson Accordion Concerto, premiere