This disc is a showcase
for one of Iceland’s premier violinists,
and allows us to hear familiar and not
so familiar repertoire, recorded in
a very sympathetic acoustic.
(born 1948 in Reykjavik), was trained
at the Reykjavik College of Music, earned
a Bachelor’s Degree at the Eastman School
of Music, New York, a diploma from the
Royal College of Music (London) and
a Master’s Degree at the Juillard Music
School, New York.
She became leader of
the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in 1974,
succeeding her teacher Bjorn Olafsson,
and began a double career of violinist
and teacher at Reykjavik School of Music.
In addition, she has appeared all as
soloist in Israel, Japan, China, Hong
Kong, as well as the Nordic countries.
She has been invited
and has appeared at many U.S. summer
festivals, and so has already had a
long and prominent life as a soloist,
orchestral player and teacher.
With a pedigree such
as this one might expect a far more
than competent musician at the helm,
and this is precisely what we have here
on this disc.
The best well known
work on this disc is the Bach Sonata
No.1, and whilst one could experience
a deeper interpretation from a Milstein
or a Grumiaux, what we have here is
far better than I expected when I first
There are none of the
scrapes and extraneous fingerboard noises
which I find distracting, nor is there
any heavy breathing, (equally disconcerting).
We have an extremely well played work
recorded in a lovely acoustic on a first
class instrument (the violin used here
is a 1728 "del Gesu" Guarnerius).
What more could one want?
Instead of more Bach,
we are treated to three solo violin
pieces written by contemporary Icelandic
composers. The Hallgrimsson does sound
what most of us would consider ‘contemporary’.
The Jonsson and Helgason pieces do not
sound as modern as the Hallgrimsson.
Indeed when first listening superficially
to the Jonsson work something more late
19th century came to mind
rather than 1927, the actual year of
its composition. According to the soloist,
it was influenced by Max Reger, and
was not too easy to play, particularly
the double fugue with which it ends.
The second new work
presented here (Helgason) has more of
an Icelandic quality about the writing,
quoting Icelandic folksongs as it does.
Formerly not well known, it is now being
adopted by more Icelandic composers
so it may become more widely known.
I hope so.
Finally we come to
Halgrimsson’s "Offerto" which
was written in 1991 for Gudmundsdottir.
It is a highly personal work, commemorating
a close friend’s death. The friend was
the Icelandic artist Karl Kvaran.
There are four movements
to this work: "Written in Sand",
imagines the composer writing the name
of his friend in the sand. The wind
then makes this writing disappear. "Lines
without Words" conjures up the
spirit of the artist’s style of painting
in sound. "Time’s Flight"
concerns itself with how time is relative
and how quickly it passes by. This movement
is the most technically demanding on
the disc, and Gudmundsdottir makes relatively
light work of it. The last movement
is entitled "Almost a Hymn",
and this is the real memorial elegy
to the artist.
The soloist was helped
by the composer to understand the thought
processes and to spend as much time
as was necessary with him to make these
performances as telling as they are.
The one disappointment with this work
is the unavailability of the paintings
in the booklet to give us an idea of
what was being represented in sound.
This has been an extremely
interesting disc to review, and I recommend