Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson: Adagio

Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson (1925-2005) began his studies at a young age at the Reykjavík College of Music and later on at the Juilliard School of Music in New York for six years, from 1947 to 1953. He was one of the first Icelandic composer to use the serial method for his compositions. Four Abstractions was his first work containing a twelve-tone technique and composed while still studying in New York, but after returning to Iceland in 1954, he continued using these methods. Magnús was one of the founders of Musica Nova in Iceland in 1959 and started approximately at the same time to experiment with electronic music. His first electronic work was Electronic Study for a wind quintet and piano, and was premiered in Musica Nova´s concert in April 1960. Immediately after the works Constellations (1961) and Points (1962) followed. Magnús was a true pioneer in this field, although the premises for composing electronic music in Iceland were poor at the time. He worked at the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, where he had the opportunity to use the equipment after hours, to work on his compositions. He did not only compose contemporary music; but also songs, music for films and theatre and his score to the movie Sveitin milli Sanda by Ósvaldur Knudsen is among his best known.

About Adagio for Strings

After 1970 Magnús discontinued composing for nearly a decade, but when he started again, his works were in a completely new style and differed greatly from his works in the sixties. His more recent works have been characterized as neo-romantic and one of his best-known work is Adagio from 1980. Magnús originally composed it on a synthesizer, adapted to a computer, but later he rewrote the work for a string ensemble, celeste and percussion. It also exists in an arrangement for organ.