The Elja Ensemble are hitting the road, delighting Icelanders from Kirkjubæjarklaustur to Ólafsfjörður with their musical mastery all summer long. Known for energetic performances and exciting programmes, the ensemble features some of Iceland’s finest young classical musicians, many of whom are well-established performers in their own right. Concert goers can expect a cornucopia of classical delights ranging from traditional greats such as Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, to exciting new pieces like the premiere of Finnur Karlsson’s latest concerto for accordion.
We caught up with the ensemble and their conductor Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason mid-roadtrip:
How did the ensemble form?
“We have been performing together since December 2017. We are a group of musicians who have been playing together for many years and decided that we should have a independent platform to perform bigger chamber music pieces and symphonies in our own way. The members are currently studying or have finished specialised studies in music abroad.”
The ensemble prides itself on creating varied and innovative programmes – how did you select the pieces for this concert series?
“We decided early on that every member could have a say in our programming decisions, so through that we have been able to get to know many different pieces. We have played many modern pieces, already premiered a few from Icelandic composers, but then we have also ended almost all of our concerts with a symphony from the classical era. For this concert it was quite easy to decide a program; Dumbarton Oaks by Stravinsky and the 4th Symphony by Mendelssohn we have played before and decided unanimously to play them again, En’tracte by Caroline Shaw was suggested by one of our cellists and we had already been approached by Jónas (accordionist) and Finnur (composer) about playing their piece, so everything just fit together perfectly!”
Could you pick a piece from the line-up that has particular personal significance and tell us a bit about it?
“Dumbarton Oaks has a specific significance for the band because it was one of the motives to organise the first Elja concert ever! It is a rhythmic, energetic piece by Igor Stravinsky, from the neoclassical composing era of his life.”
You’ve got a pretty packed schedule. How do you keep sane on the road and relax in between shows?
“We will do our best to relax in between concerts, enjoy the swimming pools around the country and of course the company of each other. We have five children joining us on the tour so there will probably be a lot of action and fun!”
Here’s the Elja Ensemble’s impressively hectic summer schedule, catch them if you can!
July 30th (20:00) – Menningarhúsið Miðgarður, Skagafjörður
August 1st (20:00) – Berjadagar Art Festival, August 2nd (20:00) – Félagsheimilið Mikligarður, Vopnafjörður
August 4th (20:00) – Félagsheimilið Kirkjuhvol, Kirkjubæjarklaustur
August 7th (20:00) – Háteigskirkja, Reykjavík
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