Composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir has spoken of how, growing up in Iceland, she developed a close relationship to natural landscapes and an appreciation for the subtle changes in light and weather peculiar to a location sited between mountains and ocean. This sensitivity to the quiet drama of nuance carries over to her music, as shown in the recent work on Aequa.
The seven compositions on Aequa—for solo piano, small instrumental groupings and a large chamber orchestra—tend to focus on the resonance of sustained tones undergoing incremental dynamic or timbral changes. The first track, 2011’s Scope for solo piano (performed by Cory Smythe), does this simply and elegantly by building a framework around the lingering decay of held notes. The small ensemble piece Fields (2016) is a wintry composition made of slow, consecutive melodies on cello, double bass and bass clarinet, overlaid with a restless scattering of notes from piano and guitar. Thorsvaldsdottir orchestrates it nicely by dividing the lead lines among the strings and reed, and the ornamental flourishes between piano and guitar. Aequilibria (2014), for eleven-piece chamber orchestra, creates a soundscape of slowly moving timbres through the canny division of the whole ensemble into subgroups. It’s the perfect sound analogue of the gradual environmental metamorphoses Thorsvaldsdottir remembers.