Artist: Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

Composers: Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Halldór Smárason, Hafliði Hallgrímsson

Format: 1 CD


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I dream in Icelandic despite having spent most of my life outside of Iceland. My native language shows itself in other ways too, as I found out early in my development as a cellist, when my teacher pointed out that I am extremely sensitive to the textures and overtones of sound, probably related to the abundance of un-voiced consonant sounds in Icelandic. It is an old language, preserved by isolation, and in the process of adapting to a quickly changing world. I see classical contemporary music sharing a similar process, finding new sounds and ways of expression through old means in a dialogue with our way of life.

There is also an appreciation of silence and economy of expression in Icelandic culture that I find comforting and fascinating. This project is a compilation of pieces by composers that not only share my mother-tongue and culture, in language and music, but also bring their unique perspective and expression in their compositions.

From the moment that I played Solitaire for the first time, I felt a connection, not only to the music but also beyond the music. The more recent pieces are collaborations with Halldór, Páll and Þuríður and I couldn’t have asked for more generous artists to come into my life and allow me to explore my voice through their music.

This project has stretched me and challenged me in ways that I couldn’t begin to comprehend, a homecoming of sorts in my musical life and I have many people to thank for making it happen. —Sæunn

Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

Icelandic-American cellist, Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, enjoys a varied career as a performer, collaborator and educator.  She has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony, among others, and her recital and chamber music performances have taken her to many of the world’s prestigious halls including Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall, Elbphilharmonie and the Barbican Center. The press have described her playing as “charismatic” and “riveting” (NYTimes) and praised her performances for their “emotional intensity” (LATimes). Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, Sæunn serves on the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle, teaching cello and chamber music and she is cellist and founding member of Decoda, Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall. 

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Track List

Páll Ragnar Pálsson
1 Afterquake

Þuríður Jónsdóttir
2 48 Images of the Moon

Halldór Smárason

3 Ljós
4 Minni
5 Slokkna

Hafliði Hallgrímsson

6 Oration
7 Serenade
8 Nocturne
9 Dirge
10 Jig

Total time: 58:07
Release date: March 8, 2019
UPC: 053479222923

Quotes & Reviews

Sæunn’s sensitivity shines in Páll Ragnar Pálsson’s Afterquake.

Jillian DeGroot, I Care If You Listen

The Icelandic-American cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir has come a long, long way, both figuratively and literally…

Steve Smith, National Sawdust Log

Bold on many fronts…

David Osenberg, Canenza [audio interview]

The current recording world seems densely populated with charismatic, virtuosic, characterful and adventurous young cellists, but on the basis of this questing and exploratory disc Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir can hold her head up high among the best of them.

Richard Hanlon, MusicWeb International

Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir has lovingly brought to life a project that merits attention from listeners open to new music from all parts of the world, Iceland in this case, from which we hear little and about which we know hardly anything. The cellist has accompanied the beautifully designed and packaged album with candid notes about her musical journey with these compositions, and she has surrounded herself with the Sono Luminus “A team”, headed by the superb Dan Merceruio and Daniel Shores as engineer.

Rafael de Acha, Rafael's Music Notes

These days a solo cello recording often sounds like anything but when the performer in question can use effects pedals and electronic treatments to expand the single instrument into a small string ensemble. Not so this hour-long solo debut by Reykjavík-born Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, whose instrument is heard in all its naked glory…

Ronn Schepper, Textura

…on Þuríður Jónsdóttir's “48 Images of the Moon,” she combines nocturnal field recordings made in a fjord with very quiet articulations of extended string techniques, which together evoke the natural sonic environment of rural Iceland. She bows the suite’s opening passages so quietly that the cello’s sound is dwarfed by the vast silences surrounding it; you get an idea of how small a human might feel gazing inland at Iceland's glacier-covered landscapes or outward across the North Atlantic. And the way Thorsteinsdóttir makes bowed patterns seem to split and separate on Páll Ragnar Pálsson’s “Afterquake” brings to mind the seismic activity that rattles the country.

Bill Meyer, Chicago Reader

The cellist Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir was riveting in Ligeti’s Cello Concerto.
— Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times

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