Hafliđi Hallgrímsson: Music for Solo Piano
Simon Smith, piano
A composer who was for many years a professional cellist, Haflidi Hallgrímsson’s writing for piano is nothing if not idiomatic, as this comprehensive overview confirms … witness the subtle take on elementary pianism in Sketches in Time (1992) or the piquant evocations of the composer’s native Iceland in Ten Pieces (1995).
Traditional music is employed in Four Icelandic Folksongs (1985), each a resourceful “theme and variations” in miniature – in contrast to the no-less-ingenious play on serial technique of Five Pieces (1971) or the poised abstraction of the Bagatelles which, like the more demonstrative pianism of the triptych Fley, originate among Hallgrímsson’s earliest compositions from the 1960s. The best is left until last: although its in-progress status means that Homage to Mondrian may become a radically different sequence, the six pieces so far completed evince a profound feeling for the Dutch master – not least the homage to his painting Victory Boogie-Woogie which brings the sequence to its coruscating close. Simon Smith proves an admirable guide to this often engrossing music; his playing enhanced by the close but never airless sound. The booklet features a striking design by Hallgrímsson – clearly no mean artist in his own right.
Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone, 11/1/2008