Composer & Conductor Daníel Bjarnason Releases New Album Collider
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
The Hamrahlid Choir
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Featuring Bjarnason’s Blow Bright, The Isle is Full of Noises, and Collider
Watch Bjarnason conduct the Iceland Symphony Orchestra performing his Collider: https://youtu.be/z5oDP2nM0fg
Icelandic conductor, curator, and composer Daníel Bjarnason releases his next album, Collider, worldwide on October 26, 2018 on the Bedroom Community label. Collider includes Bjarnason’s orchestral works Blow Bright, The Isle is Full of Noises, and Collider and features Bjarnason as both composer and conductor. The album was recorded by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and The Hamrahlid Choir at the landmark Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland while Bjarnason was Artist-in-Residence with the Orchestra in 2015 and 2016. Collider will be available from Bedroom Community digitally (FLAC/WAV/MP3). Christopher Tarnow was Tonmeister and recording producer for the album; it was produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson, with Georg Magnússon as recording engineer, mixed by Sigurðsson and Bjarnason, and mastered by Sigurðsson at Greenhouse Studios.
In recent years, Bjarnason has received transatlantic acclaim. In the album’s liner notes, musicologist William Robin describes the works on this album as being from the composer’s “American” period. All three works were originally written for U.S. ensembles: Blow Bright (2013/2015) for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Collider (2014/2015) for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and The Isle Full of Noises (2011/2013) for the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and American Youth Symphony.
Robin writes, “Collider represents an artistic evolution from Bjarnason’s previous forays into orchestral writing. At the center of the composer’s 2010 album Processions was a bombastic piano concerto that echoed the extroverted unrest of early twentieth-century modernism; on the 2013 Over Light Earth, Bjarnason focused his work into concentrated, taut miniatures that matched the album’s focus on Abstract Expressionism. For Collider, these and other models have settled into a richly distinctive palette, one that feels at once compact and expansive.”
Daníel Bjarnason is currently composer-in-residence at the Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven and former Artist-in-Residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Making his conducting debut with Tokyo and Toronto symphony orchestras, and Turku Philharmonic, other highlights this season are the revival at Harpa of the Kasper Holten production of his first opera Brothers, premiered at the Danish National Opera in Aarhus and the London premiere of First & Last Men, with the London Symphony Orchestra, a multimedia work from the late Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, which Bjarnason premiered the previous year.
Bjarnason’s recent commissions include We Came in Peace (for All Mankind), a new work/installation for 12 horns, 12 grand pianos, and loudspeakers commissioned by The Holland Festival. His latest orchestral work, the Violin Concerto, co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Iceland Symphony Orchestra, saw its world premiere at the Hollywood Bowl with Gustavo Dudamel. A co-curator of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Reykjavik Festival, and featuring as conductor and composer, he presented an eclectic 17-day festival with numerous commissions, performances from artists of different genres, visual and digital arts exhibitions, and educational concerts. Bjarnason is currently working on a percussion concerto for Martin Grubinger and the Gothenburg Symphony and a new work for Crash Ensemble.
With music performed by conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andre de Ridder, Osmo Vänskä, in venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, Lincoln Center, Harpa and Barbican, his versatility has also led to collaborations with a broad array of musicians outside the classical field including Sigur Rós, Ben Frost and Brian Eno.
The recipient of the 8th Harpa Nordic Film Composers Award for the soundtrack of the Icelandic film Under the Tree, he has also been awarded several times in recent years at the Icelandic Music Awards in categories of best composer, best new work, and best performer. Bjarnason is a member of Bedroom Community and is published by Edition Peters.
About the Music – Liner Notes by William Robin:
There is a fierce urgency at the heart of Collider, the latest major statement from the Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason. With the full symphony orchestra as his canvas, Bjarnason explores a new array of timbres and textures while maintaining the molten core of tense anxiety that has fueled his previous output. In his fourth Bedroom Community release, the composer builds on his work with traditional mediums – as orchestral conductor and classical composer – while channeling his recent collaborations with rock musicians and explorations of the recording studio.
Collider represents an artistic evolution from Bjarnason’s previous forays into orchestral writing. At the center of the composer’s 2010 album Processions was a bombastic piano concerto that echoed the extroverted unrest of early twentieth-century modernism; on the 2013 Over Light Earth, Bjarnason focused his work into concentrated, taut miniatures that matched the album’s focus on Abstract Expressionism. For Collider, these and other models have settled into a richly distinctive palette, one that feels at once compact and expansive. This record is deeply shaped by the crisp and ethereal sound of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and was recorded in Harpa, the iconic concert hall in Reykjavik, with the composer conducting. All three works were originally written for U.S. ensembles: Blow Bright (2013/2015) for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Collider (2014/2015) for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and The Isle Full of Noises (2011/2013) for the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and American Youth Symphony. Lately, Bjarnason has been studying the music of American composers Steve Reich, John Adams, and David Lang; the techniques of minimalism and postminimalism have begun to trickle into his work, but without distracting from its fundamentally agitated syntax.
Blow Bright is structured as a passacaglia, a set of variations on a repeated bass pattern whose origins as a form date back to the seventeenth century. It opens with the orchestra trembling and quivering, as intersecting instrumental lines build to a sinewy climax. The pressure dissipates, and we are left with a gauzy texture that echoes Messiaen in its unison rhythmic movements. A solo violin ascends to a tinnitus-like highpoint over rustling percussion, before Bjarnason unfurls plangent waves of crescendi. The violin returns, rendered three-dimensional as it is joined by the rest of the string section; the opening material reemerges, with pockets of the orchestra groaning and grimacing into a frenetic conclusion.
Throughout the album, Bjarnason utilizes extended techniques for hyper-theatrical ends: woodwinds produce swells of unpitched air, strings rip through unnerving glissandos. These not only represent rapprochements with the avant-garde, but also connect powerfully to Bjarnason’s work with Frost in projects such as Sólaris, a beguiling suite inspired by Andrei Tartovsky’s landmark film. Here, the composer treats the orchestra as a studio unto itself, emulating with instruments the processes by which electronic music is crafted. This ethos guides Collider, an etude in sonic and spatial configurations. It opens with a solo cello that Bjarnason indicates be “always floating slightly above the rest of the orchestra, at the crest of a wave”; the ripples that emit from the rest of the ensemble, staggered undulations that never peak in the same place, evince Bjarnason’s engagement with minimalism and micropolyphony. A languid clarinet weaves in and out of the fabric, as the music unleashes brassy eruptions that fade away without pretension. The atmosphere that the music conjures is murky, but the textures are clear and precise, at times more digital than symphonic.
Despite the overwhelming tradition of musical adaptations of The Tempest – from the original songs that accompanied seventeenth-century performances of the play to Jean Sibelius’s incidental music and Thomas Adès’s 2004 opera – Bjarnason was drawn to the language of Shakespeare’s final work. Though the orchestra seethes with menace, his vocal writing is luminescent, as the youthful chorus intones ethereal harmonies in winding lines. Bjarnason’s settings of three of the play’s monologues heighten the imagery of the text, as when the churning orchestra suddenly dispels into aleatoric mist as Caliban muses “If I then had waked after long sleep / Will make me sleep again.” As a whole, Bjarnason’s music is infused with such otherwordly mystery, simultaneously elusive and immediate.
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