POEMI ......"the music shimmers with ideas, it's complexity at all times engages,
and one is left with an impression of enormous rhythmic and near symphonic richness."
".....a strong and original talent."
.............."vividly imaginative, with an accurate ear for timbre and a love of mingled,
greyish chordings and a sonority that was never massive, always luminous, open to the sky"
"If modern music can be either human or divine, then that of Icelandic composer
Hafliði Hallgrímssom is resolutely human; not founded on obscure rituals or numercial
abstractions... but on illustration, evocative texture, drama and climax."
POEMI ...... "beautifully crafted, using the orchestra, not as a series of instruments with
individual sounds and colours, but as a voice almost human, able to whisper, mutter, roar
POEMI ".....a dark, intense lyricism and highly satisfying overall shape... it's striking
"It's rare these days to encounter a major new religious choral work that actually
feels as if it has some authentic spiritual content(as distinct from the attitude of passive
ecstasy or tintinnabular nirvana struck, however sincerely, by the various varieties of 'holy
minimalism' But Hafliði Hallgrímsson's PASSÍA certainly seems to have the root of
the matter in it.
Given on this disc with fervor and dedication by the performers for whom it was written,
in absolutely spine-tingling sound and graphic stereo separation, it sounds suspiciously
like a modern religious masterpiece, consistently inventive and evocative in it's scoring,
in a huge stylistic gamut yet always seems rooted in majestic modal and triadic certainties."
--BBC Music Magazine
" .....Hallgrímsson's PASSÍA op.28 can be seen as a musical voyage reflecting the
vastness of the sea, and, as such, can be seen as a musical voyage reflecting the vastness
of the ocean and all its moods as an allegory of the events leading up to Christ's
The music is spacious, sparse and unconcerned with the progress of time, it's hour's long
duration belying it's tautly condensed texts. Orchestral effects, frequently spiced up by
clusters and unearthly effects from the organ, replace any coherent thematic or rhythmic
design, while the function of the choir is more to expand on the effects created by the
orchestra then to deliver clear line of text.
In that, it achieves a remarkable synthesis with the orchestra and displays quite
amazing tonal control.
In short, this is a work of effect-music which is elevated by the sheer breadth of
Hallgrímsson's vision and his obvious empathy with the texts and their subject matter."
--International Record Review
PASSÍA op.28 .......this beautiful music begins slowly and proceeds lika a broad river of
pure shimmering water which only gradually gathers speed. The soloist's musical material
has a shamantic, crying quality, while the choral writing is simple, homophonic, solemn
as a medieval Icelandic hymn.
Wind instruments have eloquent solos, while the harp and string writing has all the deep
translucence one associates with Hafliði's music: The organ part has kaleidoscopic colour
and sometimes shocking violence.
What is astonishing here is the way Hafliði takes the simplest musical elements and
finds startling new ways of articulating them. The music simply melodic and largely
Any chromaticism emerges organically from the lines. There are moments which recall
Messiaen or even Wagner's Parsifal (the intensity is comparable), but the emotion is cleansed,
transmuted. This work is accessible,(the packed audience gave Haflidi a standing ovation)
yet powerfully original and fresh.
DIE WALT DER ZWISCHEFALLE (an opera in one act.) Text by Daniil Kharms.
"The first bars of the prelude already make clear where this opera journey is going-
to Absurdistan. Hallgrímsson's music is characterized by rhythm and by a differentiated
play with tone colours. He uses a small orchestra with a large percussion section, which
is reinforced by a piano, celesta, harmonium and a wind machine.
Time and again the composer also allows the orchestra to sound like a harmonium.
Full chords with little instrumental solos determine the musical happenings. This is not
really modern but very experienced and done with outstanding craftsmanship.
The seven vocal parts are most impressive in the polyphonic sections.
Tension builds up slowly in the music of this opera;in the two final scenes it is almost
unbearable. Here Hallgrímsson successfully creates a furious finale that will be remembered.
At the end there were great applause and bravos for the opera singers, musicians, and
conductor and composer-this does not happen often with a contemporary opera."
Anyone who has seen "Die Walt der Zwischenfalle" ought to be convinced that in spite
of the half century delay, this work can become to the opera what "Waiting for Godot"
is to the theatre, a classic of the absurd.
He mixes virtuoso instruments, from tremulous strings through bizarre interwoven brass,
frequently overblown woodwinds, to percussion elements, such as timpani, xylophone,
piano and wind machine.
Hallgrímsson creatively walks the line between tonality and atonality. His sensual, buzzing
tones are sometimes reminiscent of Mahler, sometimes of Wilfried Hiller.
A great success that brought much applause from the audience.
CELLO CONCERTO op.30 ...... "so it should come as no surprise that he (Hallgrímsson)
writes so idiomatically and convincingly for the instrument. Yet his solo cello lines in
these two works really seem to speak, and they have some fascinating tales to tell. It's
as if the soloist takes the listener by the hand and guides them through strange landscape
of enthralling sounds and visions, conjured inspiringly by the SCO under John Storgards."
CELLO CONCERTO op.30 / Herma op.17 "There are long passages when I think these
two cello concertos by Hafliði Hallgrímsson -the Icelandic composer who has long resided
in Scotland – are masterpieces, and then the occasional stretch when I wonder whether
such a bold claim might be just a wee bit exaggerated and the concentration isn't quite
maintained at the same intensity. Yet there is no point in either work were the music, and
it's execution in these powerfully communicative performances by Truls Mörk and the
Scottish Chamber Orchestra under John Storgards, is not deeply impressive.
Both are constructed as half-hour spans, teasing out extended arguments that often exhibit
considerable beauty, and they are major additions to the cello repertoir."
--International Record Reviews
CELLO CONCERTO op.30 / HERMA op.17 ..... "These two works are seminal in
in defining the rigorous integrity that filters through every pore of Hallgrímsson's
music. Herma, the earlier of the two, was written for his SCO successor William
Conway, but is performed here by Truls Mörk and the SCO. It comes over as the more
extrovert of the two works.
Brittenesque flourishes feed its sequence of climatic peaks with bubbling optimism,
in contrast to the underlying broodiness that is a typical trait of the composer's Nordic-
However, the second concerto operates on a more visceral, organic level. It's steadily
unfolding argument feeds on a quiet evolutionary intensity and unflinching sense of purpose
defined by penetrating persistence of its throbbing pedal notes."
CELLO CONCERTO op.30 ......... "From the beginning to end of its exquisitely-textured
structure, Haflidi Hallgrímsson's new cello concerto, unveiled in Glasgow and Edinburgh
at the weekend by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with the great Norwegian cellist Truls
Mörk, under the sensitive direction of conductor John Storgards, is a work of haunting
Instantly characterized by its slow, soft, deep, pulsing tread, the concerto, in tis half-hour span,
generates an unfailingly evocative sound world:a rather solitary one, in which a range of
orchestral soloists, including a cor anglais and bassoon, add their poignant, dark-coloured
voices to the cellist's long, soulful melodies.
The music is superbly sustained in its overall mood. Even the soloist's flickering adventures
into edginess, animation, drama and intensity are fleeting, as the music consistently returns
to its lyrical core and its dark, steady pulse.
The ending, with the cello sinking gently to the bottom of its register in a delicately-
orchestrated cloud of soft, magical sound, is, is amazing, etheral and mesmeric."
MINI-STORIES op.25 .... "The texts are by yhe Russian absurdist poet Daniil Kharms,
one of the legions of talented writers who 'disappeared' in Stalin's Russia.
The Icelandic composer Hafliði Hallgrímsson links them with 12 instrumental miniatures,
by turns truculent and surreal.
The result is MINI-STORIES – a clever, entertaining, but ultimately unsettling piece of
music-theatre. Kahrms and Hallgrímsson make you laugh one minute, then feel vaguely
guilty for laughing the next."
MINI-STORIES op.25 ..... "the wonderful music-theatre work by Hafliði Hallgrímsson -
Mini-Stories- a glorious concoction of Russian surrealist stories, enacted stylishly by
John Bett, highly original, sometimes aphoristic and always apposite music that ranges
from abstraction to reflection to manic hilarity...."
SONNAMBULO op.44 ........... "But the ace of the night, sonically and colouristically,
was Hafliði Hallgrínsson's beautiful Bouble Bass Concerto, played with unbroken
concentration and formidable mix of lyricism and intensity by the departing SCO
principal Nicholas Bayley.
The magic and the mystery in the concerto extended way beyond the solo part to the
composers extraordinary orchestration, where, in a real democracy of sonority, every
instrument in the orchestra worked with the soloist, creating a ravishing sound world,
weaving a wonderful halo of sound around the double bass. A top-drawer piece by
a master craftsman."