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Captivating and evaporating orchestral works by Daníel Bjarnason

Captivating and evaporating orchestral works by Daníel Bjarnason

With the album From Earth to Ether, Dacapo Records is presenting the first collaboration with the sought-after Icelandic composer and conductor Daníel Bjarnason. The album will be released on 23 June.

New release
02 June 2023

From Earth to Ether is the Dacapo Records debut of the sought-after Icelandic composer and conductor Daníel Bjarnason. The album presents captivating new versions of three works, recorded by cellist Jakob Kullberg, mezzo-soprano Karin Torbjörnsdóttir and Aarhus Symfoniorkester, conducted by Bjarnason himself.

Listen to a single from the album here while you read.

Mesmerising transformations

There is an evaporating quality to the music of Daníel Bjarnason. It may begin quietly or loudly, calmly or violently; but eventually its sounds are brought to the edge of breaking up, of transforming into something less concrete, closer to air. The new album From Earth to Ether showcases these characteristics with mesmerising transformations, ephemeral trembling sounds, and poignant reflections on the fleeting nature of companionship and love.

Daníel Bjarnason is one of Iceland’s foremost musical voices today. His works have been performed by Los Angeles Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra among others, and he has been nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize for the opera Brothers, based on the Susanne Bier film of the same name, which was premiered in Aarhus in 2017.

Love poems and American expressionism

The new album includes the three Larkin Songs, with bleakly honest texts by the British poet and author Philip Larkin. In the poems, Larkin describes the loneliness that can be felt even in the most intimate moments in the arms of a lover. Bjarnason renders this looming emptiness in musical phrases that are never far from fading away.

Over Light Earth, written for orchestra augmented with two pianos, is inspired by two masterpieces of American abstract expressionist painting: Mark Rothko’s No. 9 (Dark Over Light Earth), and Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, which are both characterized by both foregrounding the practical actions of the artis on his canvas, while also achieving a powerfully spiritual quality. In Bjarnason's work, we also experience something more concrete emerging from the centre of the shimmering orchestra. The composer zooms in on the tiny voids which are then magnified to vast galaxies before we zoom back out to the work as a whole.

Single out now

Today a single is released from the third work on the album, that is Bow to String, which is here recorded for the first time in a new version for cello and orchestra with solists Jakob Kullberg. Bow to String is based on a crooner-like song, which is a part of the performance work GOD by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartasson. In his piece, Bjarnason quotes and deconstructs the big band ballad style and bluesy chords from the song. 

The third and final movement of the work reduces things down even further in a minimalistic soundscape with gongs, muted string harmonies and rising cello melodies. Listen to the third movement Air to Breath, which is out now as a single, via this link.

  • Daníel Bjarnason

    From Earth to Ether