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Hugi Guðmundsson: Windbells

Hugi Guðmundsson (electronics); Áshildur Haraldsdóttir (flute); Hildigunnur Einarsdóttir (mezzo); Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra (Sono Luminus)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Hugi Guðmundsson
Equlibrium IV: Windbells*; Entropy; Lux**; Brot*; Songs from Hávamál II†
*Hugi Guðmundsson (electronics); **Áshildur Haraldsdóttir (flute); †Hildigunnur Einarsdóttir (mezzo); Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra
Sono Luminus DSL-92259   60:56 mins  (2 Blu-ray audio)


Icelandic composer Hugi Guðmundsson is best known for his choral scores, but this excellent album offers a welcome introduction to his instrumental music. Intriguingly, Guðmundsson credits his teenage interest in Death Metal as central to his compositional development. The link may be less obvious in the luminous harmonies and subtle timbres of his scores, but Guðmundsson is adamant Death Metal’s ‘freedom of form, tonality and rhythm’ continues to shape his musical thinking.

The recording features five works for chamber ensemble and electronics, each fizzing with invention. Entropy for flute, clarinet, cello and piano explores ideas of order and chaos. Its opening thrums with a certain caustic energy, before it concludes with an homage to Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps. The mesmeric Equilibrium IV: Windbells – for bass flute, bass clarinet, cello, guitar, piano and electronics – also holds echoes of Messiaen. During slower passages, the work can feel somewhat meandering, but this looseness also lends the piece a hypnotic quality, enhanced by the bell-like use of electronics. Concluding the disc, Songs from Hávamál II for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble: setting a 13th-century manuscript attributed to the Nordic god Odin, Guðmundsson conjures up a sense of magical mystery through imaginative instrumental textures and luscious modal harmonies.

Performances throughout are distinct and characterful, but the bold musicianship of flautist Áshildur Haraldsdóttir deserves special mention; her playing is assertive and daring in its breathy ferocity, while equally capable of singing with the sweetest clarity.


Kate Wakeling