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A Symphony of Fire and Ice

Episode 1 of 5

Donald Macleod visits the frozen north to explore Icelandic classical music's ancient roots and learn more about Iceland's greatest 20th-century composer, Jon Leifs.

Donald Macleod visits the frozen North to explore Icelandic classical music's ancient roots, and learn more about Iceland's greatest 20th-century composer: Jon Leifs.

For more than a millennium, Iceland's composers have drawn upon the sounds of its unique geology: sounds created in a glacial, geothermal landscape like nowhere else on earth. Searing water explodes from fissures; the earth steams spongily underfoot; vast, electric-blue hunks of solid ice crack and collide as they bob down otherwise silent fjords. Yet Iceland's classical music tradition remains barely known. This week, Donald Macleod explores the landscapes and vistas of the world's most northerly island nation - to discover its unique musical culture.

Donald begins his travels around Iceland with an exploration of its earliest art music - with Romantic-era songs by the lonely doctor Sigvaldi Kaldalóns, whose name means 'cold lagoon', and the composer of Iceland's national anthem: Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson, who later made his home in Edinburgh. He meets the Icelandic musicologist Árni Heimir Ingólfsson to discuss the influence of Iceland's ancient folk music on its classical tradition, and introduces the work of "Iceland's Sibelius" - the 20th-century composer, Jon Leifs.

Jón Leifs: The Throwing Game (Baldr)
Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Kari Kropsu (conductor)

Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson: Allegro (Piano Trio in E minor)
Auður Hafsteinsdóttir (violin), Sigurgeir Agnarsson (cello), Nína Margrét Grímsdóttir (piano)

Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson: Ó Guð vors lands
Kór Langholtskirju, Jón Stefánsson (conductor)

Traditional: Numarimur
Steindor Andersen (vocalist)

Jón Leifs: Icelandic Dances, Op 12 and 14b (excerpts)
Orn Magnusson (piano)

Sigvaldi Kaldalóns: Ég lít í anda liðna tíð; Máninn; Gamla konan
Guðrun Tómasdóttir (soprano)

Leifs: Variationi Pastorali (on a theme of Beethoven), Op 8
Nordic Chamber Orchestra, Christian Lindberg (conductor)

First broadcast December 2012.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 14 Dec 2015 18:30

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Music Played

  • Jón Leifs

    Baldr

    Singer: Gunnar Guðbjörnsson.
    • BIS: CD12301.
    • BIS:.
    • 3.
  • Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson

    Trio In E Minor

    Performer: Nina-Margret Grimsdottir. Performer: Audur Hafsteinsdottir. Performer: Sigurgeir Agnarsson.
    • NAXOS: 8.570460.
    • NAXOS.
    • 14.
  • Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson

    O Gud Vors Lands (Icelandic National Anthem)

    Choir: Langholtskirkju. Director: Stefán S. Stefánsson.
    • BIS:CD239.
    • BIS.
    • 3.
  • Trad

    Numarimur

    Singer: Steindór Andersen.
    • Naxos: 76031-2.
    • Naxos.
    • 13.
  • Jón Leifs

    Icelandic Folk Dances Op 11 - no 1 and no 3

    Performer: Örn Magnússon.
    • BIS:692.
    • BIS.
    • 32.
  • Jón Leifs

    New Icelandic Dances Op 14b - Allegro

    Performer: Örn Magnússon.
    • BIS:692.
    • BIS.
    • 37.
  • Sigvaldi Kaldalóns

    Eg Lit I Anda Lidna Tid [i See The Past] For Voice And Piano

    Singer: Guðrún Tómasdóttir.
    • ISLENSKIR: TONAR 22.
    • ISLENSKIR.
    • 2.
  • Sigvaldi Kaldalóns

    Gamla Konan [the Old Woman] For Voice And Piano

    Singer: Guðrún Tómasdóttir.
    • ISLENSKIR: TONAR 22.
    • ISLENSKIR.
    • 2.
  • Sigvaldi Kaldalóns

    Máninn [the Moon]

    Singer: Guðrún Tómasdóttir.
    • ISLENSKIR: TONAR 22.
    • ISLENSKIR.
    • 17.
  • Jón Leifs

    Variazioni Pastorale Op 8

    Orchestra: Nordiska Kammarorkestern. Conductor: Christian Lindberg.
    • BIS:1538.
    • BIS.
    • 8.
  • Sigur Rós

    A Fero Til Breioarfjaroar

    Composer: Jón S. Bergmann. Singer: Steindór Andersen. Ensemble: Seguro Ross.
    • One Little Indian:TPLP703 CD.
    • One Little Indian.
    • 1.

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