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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ice Performs Anna Thorvaldsdottir, In the Light of Air

In the lineage of today's music, at least in the ambient, radical tonality, sound color realm of works, one might trace a movement from Satie to Morton Feldman to now as one line. That seems very much so to me in the music of Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, specifically her In the Light of Air (Sono Luminus 92192) as performed by ICE.

The program consists of one longer and one shorter piece, the title track being the former, "Transitions" the latter. The two flow together seamlessly in a sustained mood that begins as a hushed carpet of sounds with emerging motival elements that increasingly come to the forefront as from a mist, only to recede again.

The instrumentation is electronics, viola, cello, harp, piano and percussion, including an installation of metallic ornaments that appear dramatically and percussively in the final "Remembrance" movement of the first work.

"Transitions" was written for the cellist in the ICE ensemble, Michael Nicolas, who alternately personifies "man" and "machine" in the piece, expression and emotion versus maximum precision and accuracy.

ICE, which stands for the International Contemporary Ensemble, is a collective of some 35 musicians, capable of morphing from the smallest chamber ensemble to a rather large chamber orchestra depending upon need. The quintet assembled for In the Light of Air sounds absolutely perfect for the music at hand, which makes sense in that both works were created with them in mind.

That music has considerable magic. There is a sort of sustained ritual tonal wash to the first piece with emerging instrumental segments that stand out as having a discursive logic in the overall scheme and great memorability. The "man and machine" oscillations of "Transitions" embody contrast and color in different ways, displaying the possibilities in a solo cello context, so that there is a sort of inter-resonating totality to it all, a definite stylistic congruity that is strikingly original.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir has given us considerable beauty and great depth in this program. She is a special creative force and one most definitely to watch in the contemporary music world going forward.

As is mostly the case in Sono Luminus releases, the music is on two disks, a standard CD with conventional two-channel playback, and a blueray capable of 5:1 surround sound.

Stunning! Totally recommended!


  1. I was hoping that Thorvaldsdottir would appear on your radar sooner or later, Grego! She's at once one of the most approachable and most imaginative workers in that texture-based vein of composition pioneered by, inter alia, Ligeti and Lachenmann. Her first two albums (the second of which was released on DG, no less!) are well worth investigating when funds allow.

  2. Yes, Chris, most certainly love her music based on this album! I will try and get a hold of those other two. She knows just what sounds to design into the matrix--and the results are ravishing.

    Thanks as always for pitching in with your comments.

    All the best,