These are two substantial, shapely and very beautiful pieces written for solo cello and orchestra by the SCO’s former principal cellist. At the heart of the Cello Concerto (2003) lies Grieg’s Berceuse. Indeed, the composer describes the work as a large-scale lullaby in which he allows himself to “dream strange dreams”. Above all, Hallgrimsson is a maker of melody, although in no sense does that imply anything reactionary in this one-movement work. The predominant feeling is one of the composer allowing his music to lead him whichever way it will. Herma (1994-95) allows its soloist recitative-like freedoms as the cello sings its line over accompaniments of multilayered, rhythmically unaligned textures that recall Lutoslawski. In both, Mork revels in the lavish solo writing, while Storgards elicits from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra playing of the highest order.
Stephen Pettitt , Sunday Times, 6/21/2009
Although he has composed across a variety of media, Haflidi Halgransson was once a cellist by profession the instrument comes through every bar here. A concerto in all but name, Herma (1995) features a string orchestra of 22 players often divided into as many parts, making for a "first among equals" context that the soloist seizes upon in writing that is expressively overt and oblique by turns. Formally, it suggests three continuous spans — one in which slower and faster tempi alternate, followed by a slow section where cello predominates so it becomes an accompanied cadenza, preceding one in which not even a ruminative final monologue can impede the energy accrued. Truls Mork projects the close-knit solo writing with his customary finesse, and he is no less insightful in the Cello Concerto (2003) dedicated to him. Here, sustained and often contemplative music — "haunted" by allusions to a Grieg lullaby — precedes a scherzo-like section, before an increasingly combative accompanied cadenza brings a heightened return of the opening music and a serene coda. Once again, Halgrimsson judges the degree of emotional rhetoric unerringly. Excellent sound and decent notes help make this a disc worth investigating by those who have enjoyed Halgrimsson's understated individuality.
Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone, 8/1/2009
There are two long passages when I think these two cello concertos by Haflidi Hallgrímsson are probably masterpieces. There is no point in either work where the music and its execution in these powerfully communicative performances is not deeply impressive. This is, in short, music of a very high order, wonderfully performed and recorded, and I recommend it to you with every enthusiasm.
Martin Anderson, International Record Review, 5/1/2009
This disc is a real find - some startlingly fresh music in exceptional performances, and a rich, crystal-clear recording.
David Kettle, The Strad, 6/1/2009
...a listener-friendly excursion into a modern sound world, the concerto being the finest I have heard since Shostakovich.
David Denton, Yorkshire Post, 5/15/2009
...the sound is spectacular.
Siebe Riedstra, musicweb-international, 7/4/2009
...the peak of his creative output.
Kenneth Walton, Scotsman, 7/4/2009
...a richly varied palette of tonal colours...
Stephen Eddins, www.allmusic.com, 7/4/2009