Magazine article Gramophone

'South of the Circle'

Magazine article Gramophone

'South of the Circle'

Article excerpt

'South of the Circle' Bjarnason Stillshot Ragnarsdottir Fair Flowers Sigurdsson Nebraska Sveinbjarnardottir Opacity Tomasson Serimonia Siggi Quartet Sono Luminus (F) DSL92232 (60' * DDD)

So far as I am aware, the only previous outing on disc by the Siggi Quartet (formed in 2012) was accompanying Vikingur Olafsson on his Philip Glass disc (DG, 4/17). This new issue from Sono Luminus is their first complete disc and for it they have chosen five Icelandic works composed within the last eight years. The most familiar among the composers are Haukur Tomasson, winner of the 2004 Nordic Council's Music Prize, and Daniel Bjarnason, whose Stillshot (2015) opens the programme. Tomasson's Serimonia (2014, revised in 2018 for this recording) is a single-span study in texture--or, rather, five textures, which intertwine and overlap through its nine minutes. Mamiko Dis Ragnarsdottir's Fair Flowers (2018) is more extended, taking as its point of departure a painting of flowers; yet, if one considers works inspired by flowers by, say, Mahler, Puccini, Langgaard even, Ragnarsdottir's sounds oddly dismal.

There is nothing dismal, however, about Valgeir Sigurdsson's Nebraska (2011), a four-movement imagining of landscapes he had not seen: 'Flat Water'; 'Landlocked'; 'Erosion'; 'Plainsong'. Almost as appealing is Opacity (2014), another four-movement work, by the Siggi's leader Una Sveinbjarnardottir, in which each of the quartet's members dominate a movement in turn: second violin the opening 'More', the cello the second span, 'Opacity'--in my view the finest of the four--and the viola the haunting 'Elegi'. …

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