Daníel Bjarnason

b. 1979



Daníel Bjarnason is one of Iceland’s foremost musical voices today, increasingly in demand as a composer, conductor and programmer.  He has conducted and composed for orchestras around the world and maintains a strong relationship with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra as well as the LA Phil who have commissioned several of his works.  He has worked with soloists including Martin Grubinger, Pekka Kuusisto and Vikingur Olafsson who have all premiered concertos written for them. 


Daníel Bjarnason is one of Iceland’s foremost musical voices today, increasingly in demand as a composer, conductor and programmer. This season he takes up the title of Principal Guest Conductor with Iceland Symphony Orchestra, leading the Orchestra on tour to Munich, Salzburg and Berlin, as well as in Reykjavík. The appointment follows his tenure there as Artist in Residence. He keeps a busy composing schedule alongside his conducting commitments, with many of his works being taken up beyond their premieres and regularly programmed around the world.

Bjarnason maintains a close connection with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which commissioned him to write a work for Gustavo Dudamel, Zubin Mehta and Esa-Pekka Salonen to perform together this season at its Centennial Birthday Celebration Concert and Gala, titled From Space I Saw Earth. The orchestra is also part of a new song cycle commission by the Crash Ensemble, together with Musiekgebouw Frits Phillips Eindhoven, where Bjarnason has been Composer in Residence since 2016, and already requested from him a new concerto for piano and orchestra for a future season.

In 2017 the Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered Bjarnason’s Violin Concerto at the Hollywood Bowl, in a co-commission with Iceland Symphony for Pekka Kuusisto, while he co-curated the orchestra’s Reykjavík Festival, an eclectic and multi-disciplinary 17-day event, in which he featured as conductor and composer.

His Violin Concerto became a success with audiences and orchestras and remains popular. Kuusisto has performed it with Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony and Finnish Radio Symphony orchestras. This season he plays it with Gothenburg Symphony, Swedish Radio Symphony and National Arts Center orchestras, MDR Sinfonieorchester and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. Bjarnason will conduct the recording of the work with Kuusisto, as part of the final instalment of a three-album recording project with Iceland Symphony for Sono Luminus focussing on Icelandic music and composers.

Since its premiere in 2017, his first opera, Brothers, for the Danish National Opera and directed by Kasper Holten, based on the Susanne Bier film of the same name, was also revived in Reykjavík by The Icelandic Opera in 2018, and opened Budapest’s 2019 Armel Opera Festival.

A recipient of numerous accolades, in 2018 he was awarded the Optimism prize by the President of Iceland, won the 8th Harpa Nordic Film Composers Award for the feature film Under the Tree, and was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize. He also won Composer of the Year, Best Composer/?Best Composition and Best Performer at the Icelandic Music Awards in recent years.

Bjarnason’s music has been performed by conductors such as John Adams, James Conlon, Louis Langrée and Ilan Volkov in venues including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, New York’s Lincoln Center, Harpa in Iceland and London’s Barbican Centre. His versatility as an artist has led to collaborations with a broad array of musicians outside the classical field including Sigur Rós, Brian Eno, Efterklang and Ben Frost.

Updated August 2019


23rd April 2024

Frank Dupree
Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg
Daníel Bjarnason
Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany