Notes on Music

The Sorceress - Sigurjonsdottir Sonata
Merrill Clark wrote this work in the spring 2010 inspired by my Bach interpretation at a solo violin recital given at Merkin Hall (see his critique). It is in five movements: Prelude • Song • Fugue • Waltz Scherzo • Ciaconna.
    I premiered the Prelude in Reykjavík 2010 and the other movements in a sequence of concerts I gave in miscellaneous parish-churches in Norh Iceland in the winter 2012−2013.
Winter Trees
by Jónas Tómasson, written for and dedicated to Hlíf Sigurjónsdóttir in 1983.

Winter Trees
      good trees
      sad trees
      mad trees
      quiet . . .
"The 1982−1983 was my second winter teaching at the Music School in Ísafjörður, a small fishing town of 2500 inhabitants in North West Iceland. The town is situated on a small strip of land in a narrow fjord with high and steep mountains all around, completely void of woods. The only trees are found in people's gardens. The sun doesn't shine in the town for six weeks during the darkest time of the winter. There were severe storms and a lot of snow - it just kept snowing. At times we were snowed in and I felt very isolated.

When spring came I found my friend Jónas in his garden cutting down and trimming broken and damaged trees from the winter. There was still snow on the ground when I left Ísafjörður at the end of June, with 'Winter Trees' in my bag.

It was a winter of intense emotional experiences. It was the winter my father died, I met my future husband and partner and I made friends for life.

I do hear the storms, the snow, the sadness, the darkness, the loneliness and the joy of the light, the miracle of the sun and the joys of dear friendships."     H.S.

- see also "samples" -

Jónas Tómasson studied at the Reykjavík College of Music, where he was taught composition by Jón Þórarinsson and Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson. He pursued further studies at the Sweelinck Music Conservatory in Amsterdam under Ton de Leeuw, Léon Orthel , Jos Kunst and others from 1969 to 1972. At that time Amsterdam was attracting young artists from all over the world, among them a group of avant-garde Icelandic visual artists who founded the conceptual art group SÚM (Young Artists' Society). Jónas soon became an active member of SÚM, and his music was deeply influenced by their ideology.
    Returning to Iceland in 1973, Jónas settled in Ísafjörður in the West Fjords, where he has lived since. He has played a prominent part in various fields of musical life there, as a teacher of flute and theoretical subjects at the Ísafjörður Music School, a flautist and choir conductor; and for years he has supervised concert programmes for the Ísafjörður Music Society. Composition remained his primary vocation, however, and in recent years it has been his full-time occupation.
    Jónas is a prolific composer, whose works are varied and diverse. His compositions include a number of symphonic works, and in recent years he has written eight Sinfoniettas exploring the sound world of the symphonic orchestra with different instrumentations. He has also composed several concertos, e.g. for organ, viola, piano, two pianos and orchestra. Choral works, sacred and secular, are a large part of his oeuvre, for instance Missa Tibi Laus, A Lucas Oratorio, Missa Brevis and Songs to the Earth. Jónas has composed many chamber works for diverse and often innovative combinations of instruments, as well as solo works for instruments or voice, often at the special request of the artists.
    Many of Iceland's leading musicians have performed Jónas' works: the Iceland Symphony Orchestra has played many of his symphonic works and concertos, and the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra, the Caput ensemble, the Ýmir ensemble, the Hallgrímskirkja Motet Choir and many smaller musical groups and soloists have had his works in their repertoire and performed them around the world.
    Recordings have been made of many of his works, which have been broadcast on radio and issued on CDs. The Icelandic Music Centre released a CD of his music, Portrait, and his Dýrð Krists (The Glory of Christ) for solo organ was issued on a CD of the same name.     (2016)

Variations on Victimae Paschali Laudes

"I met Alfred Felder through mutual friends and colleagues of the Zürcher Kammerorchester in Switzerland 1987. After returning to Iceland, I received from him Variations on Victimae paschali laudes for solo violin which I was privileged to premiere in Reykjavík in the spring 1988. He wrote:
Es sind Variationen im Klang und Ausdruck über den gregorianischen Choral Victimae paschali laudes, die Ostersequenz. Ostern bedeutet für mich: Leiden, Tod, Trauer, Auferstehung, Freude. Und genau diese Stimmungen, der Wechsel Trauer - Freude wollte ich mit dieser Musik einfangen.
    Nun zur Musik: Nach einem kurzen Einstimmen, wird das Thema (der Choral) vorgestellt. Danach erklingen 4 Variationen, die genau die Töne des Chorals übernehmen, rhythmisch verändert, Oktav versetzt, transponiert. Es erscheinen also die gleichen Töne des Chorals in einer modernen Klangsprache. In einer Coda (Flageolettes) wird der Schluss des Choral-Textes beschrieben: tu nobis, victor rex miserere ( - hab mit uns erbarmen).

These are variations in the sound and expressiveness of the Gregorian Easter chant Victimae paschali laudes. Easter means to me: Suffering, death, grief, resurrection and joy. These moods, the variations between sadness and joy, I wanted to capture in the music.
    Now to the music: After short 'tuning' the theme (the chorale) is presented followed by four variations. All of these variations are built on the notes of the choral, but rhythmically changed and transposed to different octaves. The coda refers directly to the last line of the hymn: tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere. [have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!]