Anna Thorvaldsdottir

b. 1977

Icelandic

Summary

Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977) is an Icelandic composer whose "seemingly boundless textural imagination” (NY Times) and "striking” (Guardian) sound world has made her "one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music” (NPR). "Never less than fascinating” (Gramophone), her music is composed as much by sounds and nuances as by harmonies and lyrical material, and tends to evoke "a sense of place and personality” (NY Times) through a distinctive "combination of power and intimacy” (Gramophone). It is written as an ecosystem of sounds, where materials continuously grow in and out of each other, often inspired in an important way by nature and its many qualities, in particular structural ones, like proportion and flow. Anna’s works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions - most notably, her "confident and distinctive handling of the orchestra” (Gramophone) has garnered her the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize, the New York Philharmonic's Kravis Emerging Composer Award, and Lincoln Center’s Emerging Artist Award and Martin E. Segal Award.




Anna’s music is frequently performed internationally and has been performed by orchestras and ensembles such as the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Yarn/Wire, The Crossing, the Bavarian Radio Choir, Münchener Kammerorchester, Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Avanti Chamber Ensemble, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, CAPUT Ensemble, Oslo Philharmonic, and Either/Or Ensemble. In April 2018, Esa-Pekka Salonen lead the New York Philharmonic in the premiere of Anna’s work METACOSMOS. The work received its European premiere with the Berlin Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert in January 2019, and its UK premiere at the BBC Proms 2019, conducted by Edward Gardner. Anna’s symphony-scale AION was premiered by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in May 2019, conducted by Anna-Maria Helsing. CATAMORPHOSIS was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic and Kirill Petrenko in January 2021, followed by premieres in the UK by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and US by the New York Philharmonic. Her most recent orchestral work – ARCHORA – was premiered at the BBC Proms in 2022 and received its US premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2023.
 
Her music has been featured at several major venues and music festivals, including portrait concerts at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC, the Composer Portraits Series at NYC's Miller Theatre, the Leading International Composers series at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, Big Ears Festival, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn's National Sawdust, London's Spitalfields Music Festival, Münchener Kammerorchester's Nachtmusic der Moderne series, and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra's Point Festival. Other venues include the BBC Proms, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Lucerne Summer Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, Helsinki's Musica Nova Festival, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Anna holds a PhD (2011) from the University of California in San Diego. She is currently based in the London area.
 
Podcast: Composing Myself - Wise Music Group’s CEO Dave Holley and Creative Director Gill Graham chat to Anna Thorvaldsdottir.
Critical Acclaim

With her music’s humbling vastness and depth of colour, this Icelander is a force to be reckoned with… - Andrew Mellor, Gramophone

The thing that impresses me about Anna Thorvaldsdottir's music is that all of it sounds inevitable, it sounds as if it has to exist.
- Steve Smith, Boston Globe

[Thorvaldsdottir] Icelandic composer creates small worlds for the ear to inhabit, rather than musical narratives for an audience to follow. It’s music of meditation, less driven by lines than by individual sonic events. And it’s propelled this 42-year-old to the front ranks of classical music.
- Anne Midgette, Washington Post

...Ms. Thorvaldsdottir's music conjures unseen worlds. In her score, she asks the players to execute particular passages "with calm and ease and a subtle sense of brokenness." The beauty of this instruction mirrors the sounds that it produces, infused with a balance of anxiety and luminescence that feels wholly contemporary.
- William Robin, New York Times

...The composer explores unconventional techniques. The pianist strikes the strings with mallets, the string players bow eccentrically, and there are brief harmonic convergences that leave you breathless. The work beings with an imperceptible rumble, it subsides to a mild roar, and it all seems to shimmer. Thorvaldsdottir has escorted us through an unforgettable journey.
- Allan Ulrich, Financial Times

Biography

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s (b. 1977) “seemingly boundless textural imagination” (NY Times) and striking sound world has made her “one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music” (NPR). Her music is composed as much by sounds and nuances as by harmonies and lyrical material – it is written as an ecosystem of sounds, where materials continuously grow in and out of each other, often inspired in an important way by nature and its many qualities, in particular structural ones, like proportion and flow.

Anna’s “detailed and powerful” (Guardian) orchestral writing has garnered her awards from the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, the Nordic Council, and the UK’s Ivors Academy, as well as commissions by many of the world’s top orchestras. CATAMORPHOSIS was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic and Kirill Petrenko in January 2021, following the orchestra’s European premiere of METACOSMOS with Alan Gilbert in 2019. CATAMORPHOSIS received its UK premiere by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Ludovic Morlot in June 2022, with the US premiere with the New York Philharmonic and Santtu-Matias Rouvali taking place in January 2023. ARCHORA - the most recent addition to Anna’s “ever-growing and ever more essential catalogue of orchestral pieces” (BBC Radio 3) - was premiered at the BBC Proms in August 2022, by the BBC Philharmonic and Eva Ollikainen. The work received its US premiere with the LA Philharmonic and Eva Ollikainen in May 2023. And “while [she] has made the symphony orchestra her own,” according to Gramophone Magazine, “her chamber music is cut from the same cloth and somehow sounds with much the same combination of immensity and intimacy.” Anna’s first string quartet Enigma was recorded and released by Sono Luminus in August 2021, performed by the Spektral Quartet, and was one of the New York Times’s recordings of the year (“a masterly entrance to the genre”). Portrait albums with Anna’s works have appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, Sono Luminus, and Innova.

Anna’s music is widely performed internationally and has been commissioned by many of the world’s leading orchestras, ensembles, and arts organizations – such as the Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Danish String Quartet, BBC Proms, and Carnegie Hall. Among the many other orchestras and ensembles that have performed her music include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Quatuor Bozzini, BBC Singers, The Crossing, the Bavarian Radio Choir, Münchener Kammerorchester, Avanti Chamber Ensemble, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Portrait concerts with Anna’s music have been featured at several major venues and music festivals, including Wigmore Hall, Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC, London’s Spitalfields Music Festival, Münchener Kammerorchester’s Nachtmusic der Moderne series, the Composer Portraits Series at NYC’s Miller Theatre, the Leading International Composers series at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s Point Festival. Other prominent venues and festivals include the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh Festival, London’s Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre, Lucerne Festival, Pierre Boulez Saal, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Helsinki’s Musica Nova Festival, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Anna is currently based in the London area. She regularly teaches and gives presentations on composition, in academic settings, as part of residencies, and in private lessons. Invited lectures and presentations include Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, NYU, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Sibelius Academy, and the Royal Academy of Music in London. Anna is currently Composer-in-Residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra - in 2023, she is also in residence at the Aldeburgh Festival and at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. She holds a PhD (2011) from the University of California in San Diego.

News

Performances

26th July 2024

SOLOISTS
Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch, violin; Charlotta Westerback, viola; Anna Westerlund, cello
LOCATION
Tuupala Primary School , Kuhmo, Finland

7th August 2024

SOLOISTS
Daniel Bard, Antonio Viñuales Pérez, Maria Włoszczowska, violin; Alessandro D’Amico, Alinka Rowe, viola; Francesco Dillon, Guillermo Ortega Santos, violoncello; Jordi Carrasco Hjelm, double bass
LOCATION
Kirche St. Georg, Ernen, Switzerland

24th August 2024

PERFORMERS
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Ross Jamie Collins
LOCATION
Harpa, Reykjavík, Iceland

5th September 2024

SOLOISTS
Richard Tognetti, director
PERFORMERS
Australian Chamber Orchestra
LOCATION
City Hall, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

7th September 2024

SOLOISTS
Richard Tognetti, director
PERFORMERS
Australian Chamber Orchestra
LOCATION
Recital Hall, Melbourne, Australia

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Photos

Discography