In Focus: Anna Thorvaldsdottir – Chamber Works

We’re delighted to have Anna in Manchester for this special event and tonight, she chats to Radio 3’s Elizabeth Alker about her life and work, followed by performances of her chamber music by RNCM students.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir Transitions for cello solo

Clara Hope Simpson cello

Anna Thorvaldsdottir Sequences for wind quartet

Matthew Jones bass flute
Robyn Saunders bass clarinet
Daniel Gribbin baritone saxophone
Bia Carvalho contrabassoon
Xinjie Yang conductor 

Heléna Walsh Squirming in River Head for string quartet and electronics

Blair Taylor, Chris Newton violins
Conrad Ihering viola
James Young cello

Anna Thorvaldsdottir Hvolf for soprano and piano

Emily Brown Gibson soprano
Evi Wang piano

Eve Vickers Saxophone Quartet

Martha Cullen soprano saxophone
Ellen Pointon alto saxophone
Daniel Gribbin tenor saxophone
Ben Jackson baritone saxophone

Anna Thorvaldsdottir Rain for soprano, flute, guitar and electronics

Emily Brown Gibson soprano
Matthew Jones flute, bass flute
Ravi Nathwani guitar

Transitions (2014) for cello solo

Transitions was commissioned by cellist Michael Nicolas, who suggested the work’s theme of ‘man and machine’. These characteristics are embodied by the solo cello in sharply contrasting musical material. As its title suggests, the piece focuses on the transition between these states and the blurring between them.

Sequences (2013) for wind quartet

This piece for bass flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone and contrabassoon was written for International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) for the ICEcommons Project and the New York Public Library and first performed in 2013 at Kaldalón Hall, Harpa Centre, Reykjavik. In her preface to the score, Thorvaldsdottir writes to the performers: “with tranquillity and expressive pulsation”.

Squirming in River Head (Heléna Walsh)

This short piece for string quartet and electronics guides you through a snippet of a larger landscape.

Short pieces of string have been tied around specific strings on the instruments, and the electronics feature electronic organ sounds.

Programme note by Heléna Walsh

Hvolf (2009) for soprano and piano



Fyrir utan
vinalegt tré
me! útbreiddan faðm
á kalkvegg
og fótkaldur
sem bíður.


Eiðsvarinn næturkór
Strokinn hörpustrengur.

© Sigurbjörg ƥrastardóttir


a friendly tree
arms outstretched
on a limestone wall
a lonely
that waits


Night choir under oath
northern lights
shivering harp string

© Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir

from Blálogaland (Land of Blue Flames)

Translated from the Icelandic by Sarah Brownsberger

Saxophone Quartet (Eve Vickers)

This is a piece concerned with relationships of time. Rapid strings of double tongued notes emphasise the idiosyncracies between the different performers, and these too are contrasted with statements of more regular rhythmic language. The sense of temporality across the piece shifts accordingly with the balance between air and pitch. Soon, the two temporal are drawn together into a new system; a constant feedback loop of acceleration that gradually drains the energy from the piece.

Programme note by Eve Vickers

Rain (2010) for soprano, flute, guitar and electronics

Rain was first performed at the Skálholt Summer Concerts in Iceland in 2010 by Tiffany DuMouchelle (soprano), Berglind María Tómasdóttir (flute) and Pablo Gómez Cano (guitar). Rather than using a text, the vocal part is formed from vowel sounds intended to communicate on a purely musical level beyond language.