Sono Luminus is releasing in April an album of orchestral music by five contemporary composers, four of them Icelanders: Anna Thorvaldasdottir, Daníel Bjarnason, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Bára Gísladóttir, and one American: Missy Mazzoli.

Led by conductor and composer Daníel Bjarnason, all five works are impressively played by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, in an album titled Atmospheriques.

After listening to the recording for nearly an hour, I found a puzzling sameness between the “outer space” music of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Catamorphosis and that of three other cryptically titled works included in the recording: Daníel Bjarnason’s From Space I Saw Earth, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir’s Clockworking, and Bára Gísladóttir’s ÓS.

Thanks both to the inventiveness of its composer and to its nine-minute brevity, its dense orchestration beautifully realized, I found Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) intriguingly listenable, as it relies on the acoustic potential of all the instruments of a symphony orchestra, and avoids so many of the cliches of today’s avant garde music.

Time was when music heavily loaded with electronically issued sound was very much in vogue, especially when dealing with narratives of interplanetary exploits and the mysteries of the universe. But as of this writing, John Williams has made his mark composing intergalactic music played largely by standard instruments and that despite its complexity has been embraced by both musicians and music lovers.

Perhaps  a day will come when the works of these Icelandic composers will be accepted by the concert-going public and widely played, not as “this is good for you” contemporary musical medicine but as part of the bread and butter symphonic repertoire.

Meanwhile all we can do is wish these enterprising Icelandic artists well.

Rafael de Acha

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