It’s hard to miss the ten thousand geometric glass panels forming the Harpa concert hall and conference centre. And with the addition of this summer’s Reykjavík Classics programme, the performing arts centre hopes to attract even more attention.
The new series is a year-long collaborative effort between Harpa and Reykjavík City, spearheaded by artistic director and classical pianist Nína Margrét Grímsdóttir. Iceland’s noticeable influx of tourists during the summer months inconveniently (or conveniently, dependent upon who you ask) coincides with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Icelandic Opera’s respite. Thus visitors and classical enthusiasts alike are denied that particular elation which arises only from listening to Schumann in a proper acoustic setting. This injustice will be put right beginning June 30. Daily classical concerts running from noon to 12:30 allow for a quick lunchtime dalliance with live music in the famous Eldborg Hall.
Classical music reactions are varied and can be dramatic. At times, the genre connotes pomposity and images of cravats. However these affiliations are slowly changing and they’re stereotypes Nína hopes to eradicate within the series. “I’m adamant that people feel they don’t have to be experts,” she says. “So for instance, I tried to chose classical favorites like a Mozart flute quartet. At the same time I felt the programmes had to be innovative. For example, a guitar and piano duo, we don’t hear that much. But nothing is too complicated, it’s just beautiful music, that’s my criteria.” Concertgoers won’t find any dress-code stipulations or musical-theory prerequisites.
Eldborg hall is touted for its incredible acoustics. You may have forgotten what non-amplified music sounds like. As a quick PSA: not all sounds need come through speakers. “The acoustic part is very important,” Nína says. “Today, I don’t think we hear much music that is acoustic because everything is amplified but it’s important to exercise your listening capabilities.”
In total, the Reykjavík Classics series will include 46 concerts, seven programmes and twelve performers, on a rotating schedule. Performances range from quartets to trumpet ensembles to piano and flute duos, entirely composed of Icelandic musicians. Herself a classically trained pianist, Nína will be among the twelve performers. Others will include members of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Icelandic Opera, and trusted colleagues from way back in the day.
Surprisingly, Nína says, traditional chamber music isn’t regularly played in Eldborg, hence the need for the likes of Manuel Ponce, Astor Piazzolla, and, perhaps the up-and-comer of the group, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “I’m not focusing particularly on Icelandic pieces or contemporary music because I feel that there are other concert series that are doing justice to that,” she says. “In a way, I feel we live in a society where there is so much demand for everything to be new and everything to have never been done before. I’m going kind of against that because I think it’s important to take care of our traditional things that are tried and tested. So we have the masterworks, and they’re always valid.”
Reykjavík Classics begins Thursday, June 30 and runs daily until Sunday, August 14. Admission is 3,500 ISK—purchase tickets via en.harpa.is/events/reykjavik-classics-1.