Magazine article Gramophone

Leifs: 'Complete Songs'

Magazine article Gramophone

Leifs: 'Complete Songs'

Article excerpt

Leifs [R]

'Complete Songs' Three Verses from Havamal, Op 4. Three Icelandic Hymns, Op 12a. Two Songs--Op 14a; Op 18a. Love Verses from the Edda, Op 18b. Two Icelandic Folksongs, Op 19ft. Three Songs, Op 23. Three Songs from Icelandic Sagas, Op 24. Songs from the Saga Symphony, Op 25. Memory-Land, Op 27 No 3. Old Scaldic Verses from Iceland, Op 31. Torrek, Op 33a. Memorial Songs on the Death of Jonas Hallgrimsson, Op 45. Stattu steinhus (Stand, house of stone), Op 47a Finnur Bjarnason ten Orn Magnusson pf BIS (F) BIS2170 (80' * DDD * T/t) From Smekkleysa SMK20

Jon Leifs wrote songs throughout his career, works which 'give unusually clear insights into the composer', according to Ami Heimir Ingolfsson's booklet-notes, and which were shaped by the composer's interest in Icelandic literature and folksong pretty much from the start.

Despite that breadth, Leifs has a consistent modus operandi. The voice is most often enveloped by a rich piano sound that cascades steadily through huge tectonic chords like flowing lava. Those chords are often shape-shifting, modal entities subjected to sudden unprepared modulations. Sometimes the progression of chords explodes into something more motoric or recedes into something more reflective. Sometimes, as in the first of the Two Songs, Op 18a, and the second of the Love Verses from the Edda, Op 18b, the piano's steamroller underlay reaches a level of crushing intensity that flings the voice into soaring lyricism. …

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