12. March 2018

Jón Leifs' Edda II - World Premiere March 23rd in Harpa

Premiere by Iceland's leading composer comes half a century after its completion

A major work by Jón Leifs (1899 – 1968), the founding father of Icelandic music, which took fifteen years to complete, will finally get its world premiere in March – more than fifty years after completion. 

Edda II: The Lives of the Gods is to be premiered by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra at Harpa, Iceland's national concert hall, in Reykjavik on Friday, March 23 2018

The oratorio – the second part of Leifs' ambitious trilogy - tells the story of Óðinn (the principal god in Norse mythology) and his sons, and of goddesses, witches, and the Valkyries, in a dramatic and colourful fashion.

The premiere is the ISO's contribution to the 2018 celebration of the 100th anniversary of home rule in Iceland.

Edda II is conducted by Hermann Bäumer.  The soloists are Hanna Dóra Sturludóttir (soprano), Elmar Gilbertsson (tenor) and Kristinn Sigmundsson (bass) and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra is joined by Schola Cantorum (conductor: Hörður Áskelsson).

Instrumentation for the piece includes four Nordic lurs – ancient S-shaped bronze natural trumpets – as well as more conventional orchestral instruments. Two of the lurs are on loan from the National Museum of Iceland.

Iceland's national radio station, RÚV, will broadcast the concert on Thursday, March 29 at 19.30 GMT.

A CD release with the same artists on the Scandinavian BIS label is also planned. Recording sessions will take place at Harpa, Reykjavik on between April 3 - 6, 2018.

Jón Leifs (1899 – 1968) was one of Iceland's most prominent 20th-century composers. He spent much of his composing career writing a gigantic work based on the Poetic Edda, the celebrated collection of Old Norse poems which have inspired major works of world literature and music from Strindberg and Wagner to JRR Tolkien and Jorge Luis Borges.

The Edda oratorio is a massive work designed to span three evenings, and was written as something of a riposte to Wagner's Ring Cycle - but Leifs never heard it performed. The first part of the work, Edda I: The Creation of the World, was premiered in 2006, and its CD release on the BIS label drew worldwide attention and outstanding reviews (BIS - SACD-1350).

It is a watershed event in Icelandic musical culture that this work, composed by Leifs over a fifteen-year period (1951–1966) and, at the time, the most ambitious project ever undertaken by an Icelandic composer, should finally be heard.