FESTIVE CONCERT IN HARPA (ELDBORG HALL) SUNDAY 27th AUGUST 2023 – 17:00
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756–1791): REQUIEM K. 626 for 4 soloists, choir and orchestra
LEONARD BERNSTEIN (1918–1990): CHICHESTER PSALMS for boy soprano, soloists, choir and orchestra
Álfheiður Erla Guðmundsdóttir soprano
Sigríður Ósk Kristjánsdóttir mezzo soprano
Benedikt Kristjánsson tenor
Oddur Arnþór Jónsson bass
Jóhannes Jökull Zimsen boy soprano
The Motet Choir
Conductor: Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason
The Motet Choir and the Reykjavík Friends of the Arts Society will hold a festive concert in Harpa (Eldborg Hall) on August 27th. The programme includes two outstanding works of choral literature: Mozart’s Requiem, one of the most popular and admired compositions of all time, and Leonard Bernstein’s magnificently colourful Chichester Psalms. The performers are in the forefront of Icelandic music life.
Mozart’s Requiem is one of the most well-known works of its kind in music literature and Mozart’s final masterpiece. The composition is elegant and elaborate, and the strange history of its origin adds to the mystery that surrounds it. The piece was composed at the request of a count who wanted to present it as his own work and perform it in memory of his late wife. Soon after Mozart began the work, he started to suspect that he was actually writing his own Requiem. He died with the work unfinished in December 1791, and it fell to his friend and colleague, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, to complete it. The result is a unique composition that leaves no one untouched.
In the Chichester Psalms, Leonard Bernstein drew inspiration from his Jewish heritage and incorporated elements from Jewish liturgical music into the work. The text consists of several well-known hymns from the Book of Psalms and is sung in Hebrew. The work is written for a boy soprano, soloists, choir and orchestra and was commissioned for the Southern Cathedrals Festival in England in 1965, which was held in the city of Chichester. The composition is full of contrasts, expressing exuberant joyfulness and deep contemplation, and charms listeners with its elegant vocal lines and striking orchestral writing. The spirit of West Side Story, Bernstein’s famous musical, is not far off. Chichester Psalms is one of Bernstein’s most popular and accessible works and was performed nearly 300 times around the world in 2018, the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
About the performers:
The Motet Choir was founded in 1982 and has long been among the leading choirs of Iceland. It was originally founded as the church choir of Hallgrímskirkja, but since 2021 the choir has been working independently. Hörður Áskelsson has been the director of the choir since the beginning. The choir’s repertoire is extensive and varied and includes numerous oratorios, passions and requiems, as well as a capella choral works from various eras, in addition to which the choir has premiered a number of Icelandic compositions. The Motet Choir has gone on numerous concert tours, performed in the main cathedrals of Europe, and participated in many music festivals and choir competitions. In 2014, the choir won three gold medals in the Cançó Mediterrània competition in Spain and received the Grand Prix. The choir has been nominated three times for the Icelandic Music Awards, most recently in 2021 when it won the award as Performer of the Year in the Classical category.
ELJA Ensemble made its debut in December 2017 and has since attracted great attention. The group is made up of young Icelandic musicians who have focused on all kinds of music performance in recent years, many of them having performed as soloists and worked with various orchestras in Europe and the United States. Many of Elja’s members studied together at the Reykjavík School of Music and the Iceland University of the Arts before going on to further university studies. The band’s aim is to offer dynamic and vibrant music performances with intimacy to the audience in a wide range of musical styles.
Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason is among the most versatile and gifted artists of his generation. He won the Brightest Prospect award at the Icelandic Music Awards 2016. He studied conducting with Fred Buttkewitz at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin after completing his studies as a violinist and violist at the Iceland University of the Arts. As a conductor, pianist, violist, and composer, Bjarni Frímann has already worked with some of the most influential contemporary artists of Iceland. He conducted Anna Thorvaldsdóttir’s opera UR_ in Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland. Bjarnason has made string arrangements and appeared as a string player with numerous Icelandic artists such as Ólafur Arnalds and Asgeir Trausti. Bjarni Frímann composed the music to renowned director Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson’s prize-winning Ibsen adaptation, Enemy of the Duck, at the Norwegian National Theatre in Oslo in 2016. He has also worked extensively with Björk and recently conducted her concerts in Japan and at the music festival Coachella in Los Angeles.
The award-winning soprano and visual artist Álfheiður Erla Guðmundsdóttir was named the Singer of the Year in the Classical and Contemporary Music category at the 2021 Icelandic Music Awards and was selected to represent Iceland in the 2021 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. A passionate song interpreter, the young soprano was a participant in Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall in 2019. She made her debut at the Berlin State Opera in the title role of Wolfgang Mitterer’s Snow White, followed by her Papagena debut in Mozart’s Magic Flute. After receiving tremendous accolades for her interpretation of L’ange in Olivier Messiaen’s St. Francois d’Assise at Basel Theatre she became an ensemble member at the house and has since then sung roles including Gilda in Giuseppe Verdis Rigoletto, and the soprano in a staged St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, as well as Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach.
Mezzo-soprano Sigríður Ósk Kristjánsdóttir studied at the Royal College of Music in London, where she graduated with an Artist Diploma and a Master’s degree. She regularly appears in operas, concerts and oratorios in Iceland and abroad. She sang in the English National Opera’s production of Wolfang Rihm’s Jakob Lenz, at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival in the premiere of Love and Other Demons by Peter Eötvös and in Berlin she sang in Insanity with the progressive opera company Kiez Oper. Sigríður has performed in prestigious concert halls such as the Royal Albert Hall and St Martin-in-the-Fields and she sang in Cadogan Hall with Dame Emma Kirkby in a concert that was broadcast on Classic FM.
Benedikt Kristjánsson is one of the most sought-after young tenors in the world at the moment and gained much recognition after he performed Bach’s St. John Passion in an arrangement for three performers live from the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig on Good Friday 2020, having previously performed the work in the same arrangement in Hallgrímskirkja on behalf of the Reykjavík Friends of the Arts Society. Benedikt studied at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin and has received the well-known Opus Klassik Award 2019 and the Icelandic Music Award 2016, among other honours. As an evangelist in Bach’s passions and other oratorios, Benedikt has performed in many parts of the world and been a soloist with well-known orchestras in renowned concert halls. In recent years, Benedikt has performed many times with Hörður Áskelsson and his choirs.
Baritone Oddur Arnþór Jónsson won the Icelandic Music Award 2018 as Singer of the Year for the role of Michael in Daníel Bjarnason’s opera Brothers. He was named the Brightest Prospect at the Icelandic Music Award 2014 for his role in Don Carlo. Oddur studied singing with Ólöf Kolbrún Harðardóttir and Alexander Ashworth at the Reykjavík Academy of Singing and studied opera and lieder performance at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria with Andreas Macco and Mártha Sharp. He has received numerous awards in international competitions. Oddur is a former member of the Motet Choir and has performed many times as a soloist with the choir.
Boy soprano Jóhannes Jökull Zimsen started singing with a children’s choir in Langholtskirkja at the age of three. At the age of six he performed at Christmas concerts in Eldborg Hall in Harpa. Seven years old he began studying at the Reykjavík Academy of Singing with Harpa Hardardóttir and has taken part in various productions organized by the school’s youth department. Jóhannes Jökull has studied the violin since the age of five at Sigursvein’s Music School.
THE MOTET CHOIR
REYKJAVÍK FRIENDS OF THE ARTS SOCIETY