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Haflidi Hallgrímsson

Publisher: Chester Music

Mini Stories (1997)
commissioned by the Northlands Festival
Text Writer
Daniil Kharms, trans. Geroge Gibian
Chester Music Ltd
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Operetta / Musical Theatre
Year Composed
45 Minutes
Narrator, Soprano
Programme Note
Haflidi Hallgrímsson Mini Stories (1997)
The texts I use for my composition 'Mini-Stories' were found among papers that came into the possession of the American professor George Gibian on one of his visits to Eastern Europe in the late 1960s. Incredible as it may seem, these amazing pieces written in Soviet Russia more than seventy years ago, belong with Western absurdist literature of the sixties and seventies. The author, Daniil Kharms, was a member of the literary and artistic circle, which called itself OBERIU, (a name formed from the initials of the Russian words for Association of Real Art).

The group was active in Leningrad between 1927 and 1930, and some of its members continued to write, with no hope of publication, throughout the 1930s. They came under attack, and were silenced. Daniil Kharms was arrested shortly after the outbreak of World War II, and perished early in 1942. He loved music, and owned a harmonium.

Composing the music for 'Mini-Stories', I intended the stories to be narrated one by one, with my own Mini-Stories acting as musical interludes enhancing the absurdity of the text, by existing on a totally independent level.

As the composition progressed, delicate contacts began to form between text and music. These contacts become more frequent, and an elusive relationship begins to grow between the soprano and the narrator, with the pianist also becoming involved. Only after the performance of the last musical interlude - the frantic Victory Boogie-Woogie - does the narrator wake up to the fact, that he is involved in a public performance, and that he is no longer alone in his own world. This discovery disturbs him so much, that he brings the show quickly to an end, by narrating the story of the man who doesn’t exist.

© Haflidi Hallgrímsson

  • Soloist(s)
    Simon Callow - Narrator
“The texts are by the Russian absurdist poet Daniil Kharms, one of the legions of talented writers who “disappeared” in Stalin’s Russia. The Icelandic composer Haflidi Hallgrímsson links them with 12 instrumental miniatures, by turns truculent and surreal. The result is MINI-STORIES – a clever, entertaining, but ultimately unsettling piece of music-theatre. Kharms and Hallgrímsson make you laugh one minute, then feel vaguely guilty for laughing the next.”
Stephen Johnson, The Scotsman,28/04/1999
“… the wonderful music theatre work by Haflidi Hallgrímsson – MINI-STORIES – a glorious concoction of Russian surrealist stories, enacted stylishly by John Bett, with highly original, sometimes aphoristic and always apposite music that ranged from abstraction to reflection to manic hilarity…”
Michael Tumelty, The Herald,27/04/1999
“…The incredible stories by the Russian writer Daniil Kharms, are juxtaposed with musical interludes by H. Hallgrimsson, his own Mini-Stories so to speak. They could easily stand on their own in a concert performances, but in this theatrical context, they fitted the stories to perfection. The performance by Caput and Jóhann Sigurdarson – who recited the stories – was excellent. Taken as a whole, this was a delightful entertainment of interesting music and good theatre.”
A.B.A., Dagbladid Visir, Reyjavik,06/11/1998
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