Who’s up for some sombre Nordic music? Icelandic composer Gunnar Andreas Kristinsson’s moody compilation matches the colour palette on the CD jacket: black, white and muted earth tones. Essentially this is all chamber music, even the opening cut, Sisyfos, a concerto for clarinet and small orchestra, featuring Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson with the CAPUT Ensemble. Vilhálmsson has a wildly unconventional sound and an impressive technical range. Portraying the protagonist in the myth, his part struggles against the accompaniment: descending scales, all at varying speeds and tonalities. The soloist rolls phrase after phrase up this sonic mountainside.
Based on an Icelandic folk song, Patterns IIb is quite playful by comparison, but it’s still serious play. Reworked from its original scoring, Kristinsson replaced the gamelan ensemble with three mallet instruments, alongside the original violin and bass clarinet.
Moonbow, for string quartet, depicts the meteorological phenomenon of an arc surrounding the moon. The opening phrases purport to mirror the arc’s shape; the musical ideas fragment and spin. Kristinsson means to depict the experience of seeing this nocturnal arc-en-ciel; one might be dreaming of flying in ever-narrowing circles upwards, reaching for the thing, then waking suddenly to silence.
Mathematical influence reappears in PASaCAgLiaB, originally a duo for harp and percussion with bass clarinet added later. Within the Baroque form, Kristinsson references the numeric pattern of Pascal’s triangle. A slow sad dance grows more and more manic, before reverting to resigned calm. It’ll take a few more listens before I can detect either a passacaglia format or a triangle.
Roots, the final work in three movements for chamber orchestra, reacquaints one with an old friend, the overtone series. It gets pretty funky, especially the third bit. Actually left me smiling!