Icelandic Composer Anna Þorvaldsdóttir Impresses New York

Icelandic Composer Anna Þorvaldsdóttir Impresses New York

Published April 10, 2018

Alice Demurtas
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Icelandic composer Anna Þorvaldsdóttir recently performed her latest work, ‘Metacosmos’, in New York, receiving rave reviews from major American newspapers as “an orchestral odyssey through chaos and beauty.”

A graduate of the University of California, Anna was named Kravis Emerging Composer by the New York Philharmonic in 2015 and has been on a residency for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra since last January.

In 2017, the Washington Post included Anna in their top 35 female composers in classical music for her ability to weave intricate, atmospheric pieces that are as meditative as they are inspiring. Anne Midgette showed particular admiration for Anna’s tendency to create “physical installations, or orchestral clouds of sound, in which one can bathe in the textures and contemplate the unconventional techniques used in creating details emerging from the whole.”

Despite having performed multiple times in Europe, ‘Metacosmos’ was her first commission for the New York Philharmonic. The piece aimed to take the audience on a journey beyond the senses, to a place that stands on the other side of reality, dominated by uncontrollable forces.

“Chaos versus beauty is built into the piece based on this power struggle idea,” Anna told the New York Times last week. “For me, the chaos part is not knowing exactly what is going to happen. It becomes chaotic until it is released in the other world, on the other side.”

Although the struggle was played out through the clashing tension between strings, percussions and winds, chaos had very little to do with Anna’s performance. “That description—between chaos and beauty—suggested amorphous music,” New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote. “But I was captivated by the intricacy of the sounds and colors. Ms. Thorvaldsdottir did indeed take us on a dark journey, episodic yet clear.”

A looming darkness seemed to be a red-thread among the various reviews. “Strings, winds and percussion take the listener on a voyage imbued with amazement but also angst,” Edward Sava-Segal for Bachtrack wrote. “Overall, the work has a cinematographic quality conjuring, perhaps, the strangeness of Andrei Tarkovsky’s late movies. In Metacosmos, Thorvaldsdóttir proves again to be an artist of deep originality.”

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