From Iceland's Green Mountains
Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Caput Ensemble
Justin DeHart
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
prepared piano

La Jolla, CA

Release Date: 
Oct 25, 2011
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
RhizomaiTunes Artist's PageiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
2.Hidden: I. Inwards03:58$0.99
3.Hidden: II. Our01:59$0.99
5.Hidden: III. Stay03:49$0.99
6.Hidden: IV. Rain02:40$0.99
7.Streaming Arhythmia19:31$-1
8.Hidden: V. Past and Present01:50$0.99


One Sheet: 

The works on Rhízōma, the debut album by prominent Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, rise from the earth, born from ghostly roots. Deep sustained tones evoke subterranean caverns; fractured cascades mimic the intricate crystalline structure of giant glaciers. A fleeting rustle of percussion here, the stony scrape of a prepared piano there—a living landscape listened to and learned from. Against these textures skate lines of melody that evoke an enigmatic lyricism. The works throughout the collection display a keen and unique perception of the world through music, despite the variety of settings, perhaps flavored by the composer dividing her time between La Jolla and Reykjavik, between the sunny California coast and Iceland’s volcanic vistas. Rhízōma consists of three larger pieces for orchestra and chamber orchestra, punctuated by five smaller movements from a solo percussed piano work. The larger works are given life by two ensembles who couldn’t be better suited to the task: the Grammy-nominated Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Bjarnson perform the cinematic “Dreaming,” while the award-winning Icelandic CAPUT Ensemble conducted by Snorri Sigfus Birgisson perform “Streaming Arhythmia” and the opening “Hrím,” which was awarded Composition of the Year for 2010 at this year’s Icelandic Music Awards. Between these larger works lie five movements from the work “Hidden,” performed on prepared piano by percussionist Justin DeHart. Although her compositions have appeared on a number of albums, Rhízōma is the first full album to consist only of her works and heralds the arrival of a vital new voice in classical music. Anna is a composer whose work is frequently performed by both ensembles and soloists throughout the US and Europe and has been nominated, and won awards, including for the Prix Europa and the International Rostrum of Composers. The Icelandic CAPUT Ensemble specializes in the performance of contemporary music. Established in 1987, CAPUT has premiered countless works, ranging from solo pieces to large chamber orchestra works. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1950 and is one of the leading Nordic orchestras, recording regularly for BIS, Chandos, and Naxos. Percussionist Justin DeHart received his DMA from UCSD in 2010. Although he specializes in contemporary music, he works in a variety of genres.



"'Hrim' is a very powerful piece, densely woven with a strong, personal and convincing musical language." (Composition of the Year, 2011)

“['Hrim'], like many other pieces by the composer, is picturesque and captivating, and could serve well as a cinematic music. The atmosphere was beautiful but frosty, full of torment but also of peculiar warmth … from the simple lines of poetry Anna created a powerful conjuration, dark and enigmatic. The music was captivating, magnificently interpreted … constantly morphing shadows running past the mind and the dark …the music [was] memorable and I look forward to hearing it soon again."
—Jonas Sen

operates on the sort of scale that could either have only spawned from the influence of natural landmarks (canyons, mountains), or that which has been painted illustriously on the cavernous insides of the imagination. High strings resemble eerie slithers of light penetrating an absolute pitch black. Hostility lurks in the awkwardly skewed harmonies, in the staccato shards of violin, and in the meteorite hits of timpani and brass. Rhízōma is inescapable, and often spirals upward and upward to illustrate its entrapment inside some sort of nightmare paradox – intensity builds ever further as instruments moan and cascade in kamikaze glissando, but the album forever falls teasingly short of breaking the surface and allowing resolve to pour in." [FULL ARTICLE]
—Jack Chuter

Ten Best Classical Releases of 2011 [FULL ARTICLE]
—Steve Smith

Best Classical Releases of 2011: "Traverses the planes of the terrifying and the intimate." [FULL ARTICLE]
—Doyle Armbrust

"Rhízoma plays like a field recording of the wrinkled crevasses of the cerebral cortex. Structured yet transcendent of bar lines, the scores wander introspectively through a vast spatial plane, as though pivoting the eyes back into the skull ... This is an album for the snowed-in days ahead." [FULL ARTICLE]
Doyle Armbrust

Rhizoma sets a dark and mysterious mood, and it provides a deep listening experience that can easily trip you into reverie. Powerful.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Francois Couture

"[T]he idea of multiple lines flowing outward, illustrated on the cover by that drawing of a tree, is executed ... with alert variety." [FULL ARTICLE]
—Deanne Sole

ALBUM OF THE WEEK (11/11/11):"Rhizoma … bring[s] with it soundscapes that are epically vast tundras … There’s a grandeur in Rhizoma’s three longer tracks … that speaks to seemingly endless winters, volcanic ash, healing waters and grandiose clouds passing overhead. However, what makes them so engrossing is an eye for the minutest of details. If, as the adage goes, every snowflake is different, then every note in Thorvaldsdottir’s intricate compositions is equally unique." [FULL ARTICLE]

"[Anna Thorvaldsdottir's] is a very intricate style of music and the minutest attention to elements of timbre, pitch and dynamics are evident … the art and value of the works herein is to be had in concentrating fully." [FULL ARTICLE]
Daniel Coombs

"Thorvaldsdottir creates environmental washes of sound that unfold in long, rhythmically static waves …[T]he resulting pieces are undeniably beautiful and subtle … [T]he depth and sumptuousness of the orchestral writing - and the splendid performance by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Bjarnason - turn this into a compelling, even ravishing, creation." [FULL ARTICLE]
Joshua Kosman

"[T]here is a very irregular and unpredictable contrast between musical utterence and quiescence, too directed to be the product of chance operations, but also too experiential-serendipital to be a product of logical-linear thinking … [O]ne leaves this music with a feeling that one is in the presence of an original voice, a poetics of desolation and isolation, an a-strophic language of free-verse, a series of sound color pieces that have more in common with natural forces than human-made machinery." [FULL ARTICLE]
Greg Edwards 

"Thorvaldsdottir has been studying in San Diego. Her compositional know-how may have burgeoned under the California sun but her debut disc's broodingly atmospheric music is more evocative of the basalt formations and glacial expanses of her native Iceland. Or rather, of its landscape filtered through a temperament. This is personal and expressive music, not programmatically descriptive soundscaping. Dreaming (2008) features The Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and there are two pieces for chamber groups. Her writing has a darkly compelling and diffuse lyricism. Juddering flurries and sombre descending slurs in the strings, icy fluttering and ominous purrs amongst the wind instruments, gelid tempos, translucent textures, evocations of transitional states. Interspersed is Hidden, a series of enigmatic rumbling vignettes scored for percussionist playing grand piano. Rhizoma established a significant compositional voice."
Julian Crowley

DAGENS NYHETER (Sweden) “[S]ensuous but equally grandiose, powerful and overwhelming as nature itself.” —Johanna Paulsson

LUCID CULTURE “This minimalistic yet lush, desolate yet forcefully immediate, dark masterpiece hasn’t yet reached the audience it should. … A tense, wary tone poem spiced with sudden, jarring cadenzas from the brass, strings, percussion or piano, [‘Hrim’] begins with a muffled rumble eventually balanced by a high, keening string drone, building to long, shifting tones, a brief, horror-stricken interlude with the piano grappling against fluttering agitation from the violins and then follows a long trajectory downward to eventual silence. Far more dramatic is the potently cinematic ‘Streaming Arhythmia.’ Once again, mutedly minimal motifs from a long series of voices over a droning rumble build to a scurrying crescendo where everyone seems to have frantically thrown their windows wide to see what horrific event is about to take place. From there the orchestra builds a big black-sky theme (like a wide-open, expansive blue-sky theme but vastly more menacing), low strings in tandem with the timpani and brass at the bottom of their registers. Autumnal hues eventually ebb and fall over the drones; it ends on an unexpectedly playful note, the horror having gone up in smoke, or back into ocean.”