Sunleif Rasmussen

b. 1961



The Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen was born on Sandoy in 1961. The Faroe Islands and the North Atlantic nature are key factors in his music, which bears indelible traces of wind, dunes, lyme grass and the ever-present Atlantic Ocean. He studied in Norway and at the Royal Danish Academy of Music with Ib Nørholm and Ivar Frounberg. 

Rasmussen’s music may not seem inherently Faroese, but deep within the musical structure, traces of accumulated Faroese folk songs linger, reborn in new forms. His compositions have a natural complexity, combining jazz with the rich Faroese folk tradition as well as with electroacoustic and spectral music. The result is highly evocative, beautiful, and not difficult to listen to. 

The power and complexity of his music often reflects nature, shimmering with energy and movement, as is evident in titles like Symphony no. 1: Oceanic Days (1995) and Vogelstimmung (2011).
Critical Acclaim
...The composer has [...] placed and established Faroe Islands on the musical map - Peter Päffgen, Gitarre & Laute

...Sunleif Rasmussen incorporates the Faroese nature in his music with a tonal language originating from old songs and bird screams - Lotte Bichel, Berlingske tidende


The Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen, more than anyone, has put the small wind-swept Atlantic islands on the musical map of the world. In 2002 he was the first Faroese ever to win the Nordic Council’s Music Prize for his Symphony no. 1 Oceanic Days (1995). In many ways Sunleif Rasmussen’s aesthetic approach gives meaning to the concept of Nordic music.

Sunleif Rasmussen was born on Sandoy – ‘Sand Island’ –and the Faroese landscape and culture both play an important role in Sunleif Rasmussen’s music; not in the sense that the music paints the fury of the elements, the omnipresent Atlantic Ocean or audibly draws on Faroese folk music and mythology. The references and associations are far more subtle. The national melodic material is split up into its smallest fragments and most of all has the function of musical building blocks. Nature is an important framework of understanding and thinking for the music and aesthetics. 

In the symphony Oceanic Days percussion and electronics are placed around the audience. Sunleif Ras­mussen himself describes the underlying idea as follows: "The audience is like a group of islands at the centre of the events, surrounded by sound.” In the period 2008-2009 Sunleif Rasmussen was composer-in-residence for the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra and in the period 2009-2010 for Ars Nova Copenhagen.

A long succession of prominent orchestras and ensembles are at present commissioning and playing works by Sunleif Rasmussen: the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Lap­land Chamber Orchestra, Theatre of Voices and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble.

The succession of conductors and soloists who have performed Sunleif Rasmussen’s music is also impressive: John Storgårds, Paul Hillier, the recorder virtuoso Michala Petri, the singer Bo Skovhus and others.

Hjarne Fessel 2014



24th June 2024

Hatun, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

25th June 2024

Lapland Chamber Orchestra
John Storgårds
Nordic House, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

29th June 2024

James Hicks, organ
Hoyvíkar Kirkja, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

31st July 2024

Niklas Walentin, violin
Danish Chamber Players; Ensemble Storstrøm
Dråby Kirke, Ebeltoft, Denmark

13th August 2024

Rudersdal Chamber Players
Vedbæk Station, Vedbæk, Denmark


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