GUNNAR ANDREAS KRISTINSSON (b.1976): Sisyfos, Patterns IIB, Roots (CAPUT Ensemble w/ Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson [clarinet - Sisyfos]), Moonbow (Siggi String Quartet), PASsaCAgLia B (Duo Harpverk, Vilhjálmsson [bass clarinet]).
Catalogue Number: 05W069
Label: Sono Luminus
Format: CD + DVD
Description: This Icelandic composer has a wholly unique style, that produces most harmonious and appealing results from material and techniques that might appear not to guarantee anything of the sort. Very, very broadly, it might be said that his idiom is a blend of his version of "new simplicity" (not much like anybody else’s), and his take on post-minimalism (ditto). He studied in The Hague, though these works were written (or revised in one case) after his return to Iceland in 2009, and something of the soundworld and insistence of Dutch minimalism is a recurring feature of the works. Another is a general form whereby basic, somewhat repetitive gestures are presented at the outset, but as textures are filled in, the pieces progressively become more tonal-sounding and harmonically rich, and develop dramatic intensity that was barely, if at all, suggested by the coolly detached, etched lines of the works' initial stages. The chamber concerto for clarinet Sisyfos, begins with overlapping descending scales and a melancholy melody, and the symbolism is obvious, but nothing much seems to be happening. Gradually, though, the music becomes more agitated, with increasingly frantic ascending arpeggii lapsing into despairing descents which lead into a central "slow movement". Again, gestures - little melodic fragments this time - congeal into an increasingly agitated argument, leading to a climax and a return to slow, spare textures which swell into an obsessively insistent final section. Patterns II originally incorporated a gamelan when Kristinsson wrote it in the Netherlands in 2004. It weaves a sonorous Icelandic folksong into an increasingly dense texture of rhythmic and melodic patterns, gamelan-like patterning suddenly emerging about a third of the way through the piece. A Moonbow is a rare meteorological phenomenon, and this string quartet begins with ethereal, curving gestures which gradually accumulate density and increase in activity as the music passes through a series of episodes of greater harmonic luminosity and rhythmic certainty. The richly sonorous PASsaCAgLia B is structured loosely over a kind of ground, and is based on number sequences from PASCAL's Triangle in a softly undulating series of variations with a pulsating persistence of rhythm. The three movements of Roots explore overtone series, beginning with a throbbing fundamental and its overtones, multiplying the number of fundamentals and the spectral complexity of its derivatives in the second piece, and compiling a jaunty microtonally colored groove for a finale.