"Jón Leifs and the Musical Invention of Iceland" 

Event Info

The Composition Colloquium series hosts Professor Árni Heimir Ingólfsson for a talk about Jón Leifs (1899–1968), Iceland’s first professional composer, a formidable and sometimes troubling figure who “possessed one of the more original musical voices of the twentieth century” (Alex Ross). Leifs drew inspiration from his native landscapes, literature, and folk song, creating orchestral music of a raw quality, often enhanced by a greatly expanded percussion section. In this lecture Árni will demonstrate the key elements of his style through two important works, Hekla for orchestra and Requiem for mixed chorus, and also discuss Leifs as a promoter of cultural nationalism in the early twentieth century. 

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About the Artist:

Árni Heimir Ingólfsson holds a PhD in musicology from Harvard University and is currently Artistic Advisor for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Visiting Professor of Musicology at the Iceland University of the Arts. 

Ingólfsson has devoted much of his career to researching Icelandic music history. He has published widely in Icelandic and English, including the recent Jón Leifs and the Musical Invention of Iceland, published by Indiana University Press and lauded by Alex Ross of The New Yorker as a “brilliant, panoramic biography.” Ingólfsson has given lectures at conferences in Europe and the United States, been Visiting Erasmus Lecturer at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, and has held visiting fellowships in musicology at Oxford and Yale Universities.

As a musician, Ingólfsson is primarily active as a collaborative pianist and choral conductor. On the Icelandic label Smekkleysa, he has produced three CDs with music from medieval Icelandic manuscripts, two of which won the Icelandic Music Awards for Best Classical CD of the Year. One of these CDs, Melodia, was also Editor’s Choice in Gramophone. Ingólfsson has worked with a wide range of prominent musicians including composer Nico Muhly and singer-composer Björk, arranging several tracks for her 2011 Grammy-nominated album Biophilia.