Iceland has no less than three artists on the New York Times 25 best classical tracks of the year.
The Reykjavík Grapevine, as well as all music lovers in Iceland, have noticed that there is a unique scene brewing in Icelandic classical music these days, so this came as no surprise.
One of the artists on the NYT list is none other than our cover feature for the March 2017 issue, Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson.
He got his mention for his track, “Bach: Solo Piano Works” published by the respected label Deutsche Grammophon. NYTimes says:
“There’s a quiet fearlessness to this album, which includes off-the-beaten-path selections and offers an array of ways to consider Bach, including through transcriptions by the likes of Busoni and Rachmaninoff. In meat-and-potatoes fare, Mr. Olafsson is a master of finding and exploiting unexpected pockets of musicality. J.B.”
We couldn’t have worded it better.
Next one on the list is the incredibly talented composer Anna Þorvaldsdóttir with her track, ‘Aequilibria’.
NYtimes wrote: “This collection of Thorvaldsdottir chamber works is a tour of vivid sound worlds nimbly navigated by members of the International Contemporary Ensemble. At the album’s heart is “Aequilibria,” a piece with rich contrast and surprising balance between spaciousness — conveyed through airy fifths — and knotty smallness. J.B.”
Reykjavík Grapevine listened to her and wrote about her work when the Icelandic orchestra played her composition, ‘Dreaming’, in Harpa last year. This was a remarkable concert where the most prominent women composers of Iceland came together for one night. You can read all about it here.
Which brings us to María Huld Markan, once in the famous band Amiina, perhaps best known for their frequent collaboration with Sigur Rós. New York Times nominates her track, ‘Loom’, as one of the 25 best tracks of the year.
NYT wrote: “’Loom’ begins with a thin thread of sound that is patiently roughed up and smoothed out in ways that seem both generous and brittle, with the light seeming to enter right where the texture appears most broken. Listeners equally equipped with patience and openness will be rewarded by this quiet and wise music, written and performed by women. C.F.W.”
Although we couldn’t agree more with NYT selection, we feel like one artist is missing on the list. Namely, the conductor and composer Daníel Bjarnason, who wrote the incredible opera Brothers, based on the Danish movie directed by Susanne Bier. The opera was a smash hit both in Iceland as well as in Denmark, where it won the prestigious Reumert Award. His album, Collider, is also a notable album and one of the best classical albums of the year in Iceland, in this writer’s opinion, and was released late this winter. Plus, the eponymous track, Collider, is absolutely mesmerising.
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