Páll Ragnar Pálsson: Atonement Tui Hirv, Caput Ensemble & Guðni Franzson
- Páll Ragnar Pálsson (b. 1977):
- 3Stalker's Monologue09:53
- 4Midsummer's Night (Version for Ensemble & Recited Text)05:54
- 5Wheel Crosses Under Moss09:55
Info for Páll Ragnar Pálsson: Atonement
Páll Ragnar Pálsson‘s new album is dark and mysterious, reflecting the ravages of war and the uncertainties of time. Yet one can’t help but view it through the lens of love. This is because the album would not exist without the love story of the Icelandic composer and the wife he met in Estonia. Tui Hirv‘s operatic, internationally-recognized voice graces the majority of these movements, and even when the texts are dark, one remembers that grace is still possible in the midst of tumult ~ and can seem even sweeter in contrast. Iceland’s Caput Ensemble brings this music to life, while the title work contains recitations by Icelandic poet Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir.
Composing is a meditative process I embark on in every piece I compose. It doesn‘t feel like beginning a new journey with each composition though, rather continuing from where I left off in the last one. This continuity reflects in my music – one sound grows out of the last one, like branches of a tree. Associations and encounters find their way directly to the music, in terms of narrative, atmosphere or structure. It is a conscious process of translation of some kind, and I gratefully allow it to happen, never applying force or excess intellectual argumentation. All the technique I have learned is in service of that unstoppable movement, never dictating the flow.
Exploring the DNA of my artistic development, I‘d say there are two major factors that have influenced me. One of them is to have been born in Iceland, growing up in a protected environment that leaves one with the feeling (or illusion) that one is free to do anything he wants. Then again moving to Estonia to study composition made me re-evaluate my perceptions on life and art so far. The brisk salty breeze of the ocean got replaced by scent of burning wood rising from the chimneys of old houses near the forest and the playful indie scene of Reykjavík by sophisticated academic concert life in ancient churches and guildhalls of Tallinn. It was the environment where I found my musical language, plunged into East-European art and history, travelled and made friends, connected deeply with the spiritual approach Estonians have to music and their somewhat ancient character. One of those old souls I got to know is my wife Tui who sings on this album. Our singer-composer collaboration started right away and has tied together our professional and personal lives in an especially fulfilling way.
The compositions on this album illustrate the shift of us moving back to Iceland and continuing life there with a new perspective. The oldest piece on the album was composed in 2011 when we lived the slow-paced life of young parents in the countryside-like outskirts of Tallinn whereas the latest piece was composed in Iceland and premiered in Berlin 2018. The texts chosen for the compositions demonstrate my influences during the time quite appropriately. Stalker, Tarkovsky‘s famous screenplay from where I borrowed the monologue, was shot in Tallinn and cleverly displays references to Estonia‘s troubled history. Wheel Crosses under Moss contains excerpts of folk hymns from Vormsi, an island off the West coast of Estonia once inhabitated by Swedes, until the whole community was evaquated in fear of the Soviet Army. Other texts are by Icelandic artist and poetess Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, whom I have collaborated with on numerous occasions. In the album‘s title-piece poem, Atonement, Ásdís Sif sensitively describes a feeling of re-connecting with herself and finding inner peace. The word itself – atonement – indicates my approach to composition in music and life.
Tui Hirv, soprano
Guðni Franzson, conductor
is an Estonian soprano living in Reykjavík, Iceland. She graduated from Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre with a BA degree in singing in 2007 and MA in musicology in 2009. Tui Hirv has been active both in the vivid choir music scene of Estonia and as a soloist of contemporary chamber music. In 2008–2009 she worked with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. With conductor Tõnu Kaljuste they recorded an album with the music of Arvo Pärt for ECM New Series, Adam’s Lament, which includes a piece named L’Abbé Agathon, where Tui performs as a soloist, and received the Grammy Award in 2014 for best choral performance. Tui Hirv has also been singing with early music vocal group Vox Clamantis under the guidance of Jaan-Eik Tulve. Their recording of Liszt's Via Crucis for the French record company Mirare was awarded Diapason d'Or in 2013. As a soloist, Tui Hirv has cooperated with various new music ensembles, premiering pieces and new arrangements by various Estonian composers. Over recent years Tui has had a fruitful cooperation with Icelandic composer Páll Ragnar Pálsson.
This is how our work was described by Nordic composers when Caput received the 2011 Council of Nordic Composers prize for the advancement of contemporary Nordic classical, electro acoustic and art music. The prize was awarded during the 2011 Nordic Music Days in Harpa Reykjavík. Is there more to say? Our emphasis has been first; new Icelandic music, second; new Nordic music; third; new music from the rest of the world; Japan, Italy, Romania, Northern Ireland, China …
Caput ensemble was founded in 1987 by young Icelandic musicians. It started as a small chamber group but grew rapidly to a sinfonietta with up to 20 players. The size of Caput has always been flexible. Each member can stand out as a soloist and the ensemble plays duos, trios, quartets, octets etc.
The “childhood” of Caput was spent in Iceland but since 1992 the ensemble has given numerous concerts abroad. The first tour was organized by Italian composers and Gaudeamus in Holland with concerts in Amsterdam, Bonn and Milan.
Living so far away from everyone, recordings are perhaps our most important task. Our debut CD was made for the Italian label Stradivarius in 1993 with music by Aldo Clementi and Riccardo Nova who both travelled up north to attend rehearsals and recordings. Caput has now made 23 CDs for labels in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, England and the United States. Besides we have recorded single (and up to 3) tracks for at least 12 different CDs.
The Caput CDs include 5 for the Swedish label BIS, 2 for Naxos and several for local labels like Bad Taste and Iceland Music Information Centre. Most of the music is the tough, intense and delightful modern music we usually perform in concerts but you can also hear music for children (Haukur Tómasson: Grannmetislög) and much lighter music performed by the strictly commercial version of Caput: The Caput Session Ensemble.
Countless Icelandic composers have worked with CAPUT, some of them from the beginning like Atli Heimir Sveinsson, Haukur Tómasson, Snorri Sigfús Birgisson, Atli Ingólfsson, Hróðmar Ingi Sigurbjörnsson, Sveinn Lúðvík Björnsson and Áskell Másson. The reinforcement of the younger generation is of course important. For few years now we have made several projects with Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, both concerts and recordings.
CAPUT is an independent ensemble supported by the Icelandic Ministry of Culture and City of Reykjavík. Conductor and clarinetist, Guðni Franzson and flutist Kolbeinn Bjarnason have been the artistic directors and managers from the beginning.
“Through their earnest, skillful and passionate work – including dozens of CD-releases, touring and participation in many of our foremost festivals – Caput has gratified innumerable listeners with their artistically eminent performances of contemporary music by Nordic composers, ever since it was founded in 1987.”