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Friday, December 14, 2018

Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Aequa, International Contemporary Ensemble

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir joins us this morning in a program of some seven of her compositions. The CD and the program of works is called Aequa (Sono Luminus CD and BluRay 02227). The International Contemporary Ensemble prevails in a lively musical imaginativeness and well attuned sensitivity to give us subtly alive performances. And that means a lot because there is a beautiful ambiance to this program. It is dramatic and soundscaped, as crisp as a dazzlingly bright winter's morning with the ice blue of the snow reflected out towards you as you are up to greet the sun. Or for that matter whatever other daydream that might come to mind as you listen. It is woolgathering fare, sure, and very good for that!

The music is tonal and sound-colorful in dramatic ways. That means if you think of the George Crumb way of heightening the sonic experience by a poetic demeanor, it is not something that does not apply to Ms. Thorvaldsdottir. She is not a member of a Crumb School, surely, but she has in her own way a very poetic vision in the soundscapes she constructs. So you may get an almost droned block of chordality with ornamentation that then changes to form a very slow-motion chordal sequence. And to me it feels like living in the realm of gradual shifts in sunlight on a silent and deserted landscape on a sunny, partly cloudy afternoon. If I hearken back to natural landscape in my description it is because there is a natural feel to this music and that is something one hears happily.

Anna clearly seems to know what she is after in the way she orchestrates each moment of the works we experience here. There is something in the Radical Tonality mode about this music if you want to slap a label on it. Karmanic? Oh that probably is a bit much as a descriptive label. But there is something rather cosmic about this music if you will pardon my saying. It feels quite Modern in the end, Post-Modern I suppose too with the droning and spacey toning of all of it. It all manages to mean to project a vision in sound to us as we listen.

I should mention that the album comes with two disks as is often the case with Sono Luminus releases. One is the standard CD, the other a BluRay with multiple channel 5:1 configurations.

It is music that probably would appeal to a lot of people if they allowed themselves to open up to it. From solo piano to large chamber ensemble, the music is sculpted with some brilliance. The music spans the compositional period of 2011 to 2017, right now in other words.

It is a program that allows your musically apprehending mind to luxuriate in thick growths of shifting sounds and to travel a path to many imaginary spaces no doubt. I do when I play it at least. It is an experience you will find yourself returning to and ultimately will I hope live inside of happily when you can. Thorvaldsdottir seems a central aspect of what is happening today. If Iceland has a sound, it is Anna's sound? Probably, yes! An exemplar yet also a joy. Highly recommended.

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