Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Jón LEIFS (1899-1968)/Hjálmar H RAGNARSSON
Tears of Stone
- music from the film
LEIFS: Iceland Cantata; Elegy; Galdra Loftur Overture; Funeral March
LEIFS: (folk): Icelandic Dance; Funeral March; Andante; Preludio Organo
RAGNARSSON: Lif's Theme I and II; Variations I, II and III; Lovers' Duet; After the Concert; In the ballroom; Annie Listens to the Radio

This is a film score disc. The film Tears of Stone is a dramatisation of the life of Iceland's composer laureate, Jón Leifs. The Tonabio film was completed and released in 1995 with financial support from the Icelandic Film Corporation and IDE-Film Felixson. In the UK, surprisingly, it has not, to the best of my knowledge, turned up on Channel 4 or BBC 2; costs of subtitling, I wonder. I do hope that the Iceland Music Centre have a video of the film. I would certainly like to review it.

There are 25 tracks of which eleven are original compositions by Leifs and five are of his works based on Icelandic folk song. Nine tracks are by Ragnarsson. The Leifs material (or at least the most substantial excerpts) are from the Chandos Leifs anthology.

Ragnarsson contributes a piano tango (4) as well as the distant and deliberately distorted song Meine kleine Freundin (a little like Weill's Surabaya Johnny) heard like some muffled memory of a memory of a radio broadcast. Lif's Theme, Funeral March, Andante and Preludio are Ragnarsson out of Leifs. They take in a slow dance for piano, a sombre invocation à la Gabrieli, a furiously dissonant organ-dominated piece and a simple dance recalling similar essays by Skalkottas (Greek) and by Holmboe (Rumanian). A charming musette movement for solo piano is another Ragnarsson/Leifs piece based on Icelandic folk song.

Of the pure Leifs tracks I single out the Iceland Cantata for its slow tolling choral threat and the white singing tone of the full choir. There is also a gentle Requiem. The Lullaby hints at the energy-sapped exhaustion of Luonnotar. The extract from Baldr (a much bigger work which you can hear on the CP2 label) is notable for its rolling drums, bardic grimacing and its brassy menace predictive of John Williams' Jaws music. The piano solo valse lente is like a fractured Chopin Ballade. Indeed a similarly charming naivety motivates Reverie and Icelandic Dance. The Galdra Loftur overture, a gruff troll's hymn perhaps, has a warrior tread, squally strings and stuttering rhythmic figures. The most impressive track is the Elegy (21) - a hymn for strings: restrained like some skewed Valse Triste suggesting stars glimmering through strands of fog. This ascends to a theme for high strings. Again Roy Harris and gently evolutionary images of warm mid-west nights will occur to those who know their repertoire. This is the music of a Nordic Vaughan Williams - Tallis extrapolated through the aurora borealis.

This disc must work well as a memento of the film (if you saw it in the first place!) and as a Leifs sampler. The Ragnarsson tracks are pleasant but do not have the impact of the Leifs works. Fortunately the Leifs assortment includes some complete works which will echo in the memory.

Rob Barnett


Helga Sif Gudmundsdóttir
Iceland Music Information Centre
Sidumula 34
108 Reykjavik
phone +354 568 3122
fax +354 568 3124

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