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Anna Thorvaldsdottir, composer

“Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music is about mass and density, how different planes of sounds collide and combine, and how intricately detailed textures evolve over time. Those qualities make the orchestra the obvious medium for her work, and it has largely been through her sequence of strikingly effective orchestral scores that the Iceland-born composer has become recognised as one of the most distinctive voices in European music today.” - The Guardian

“With her music’s humbling vastness and depth of colour, [Thorvaldsdottir] is a force to be reckoned with.” - Gramophone

“[Thorvaldsdottir] has carved her own corner in contemporary music by creating symphonic works of sustained brilliance” - The Times

"[Salonen] conducted the radiant premiere of a richly atmospheric piece by the Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir. ... I was captivated by the intricacy of the sounds and colors. Ms. Thorvaldsdottir did indeed take us on a dark journey, episodic yet clear. ... During a few wistful moments, short melodic phrases in a natural minor scale sigh atop mellow harmonies. These seemingly conventional passages actually came across as reflective stops on the promised odyssey through chaos and beauty. ... At Geffen Hall, “Metacosmos” was the highlight." - The New York Times 

“Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music is about spaces. The Icelandic composer creates small worlds for the ear to inhabit, rather than musical narratives for an audience to follow. It’s music of meditation, less driven by lines than by individual sonic events. And it’s propelled this 42-year-old to the front ranks of classical music." - The Washington Post


Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s (b. 1977) “seemingly boundless textural imagination” (The New York Times) and striking sound world has made her “one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music” (NPR). Her music is composed as much by sounds and nuances as by harmonies and lyrical material – it is written as an ecosystem of sounds, where materials continuously grow in and out of each other, often inspired in an important way by nature and its many qualities, in particular structural ones, like proportion and flow. 

Anna’s “detailed and powerful” (Guardian) orchestral writing has garnered her awards from the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, the Nordic Council, and the UK’s Ivors Academy, as well as commissions by many of the world’s top orchestras. CATAMORPHOSIS was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic and Kirill Petrenko in January 2021, following the orchestra’s European premiere of METACOSMOS with Alan Gilbert in 2019. CATAMORPHOSIS received its UK premiere by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Ludovic Morlot in June 2022, with the US premiere with the New York Philharmonic and Santtu-Matias Rouvali taking place in January 2023. ARCHORA - the latest addition to Anna’s “ever-growing and ever more essential catalogue of orchestral pieces” (BBC Radio 3) - was premiered at the BBC Proms in August 2022, by the BBC Philharmonic and Eva Ollikainen. The work will receive its US premiere with the LA Philharmonic and Eva Ollikainen in May 2023. And “while [she] has made the symphony orchestra her own,” according to Gramophone Magazine, “her chamber music is cut from the same cloth and somehow sounds with much the same combination of immensity and intimacy.” Anna’s recent string quartet Enigma was recorded and released by Sono Luminus in August 2021, performed by the Spektral Quartet, and was one of the New York Times’s recordings of the year (“a masterly entrance to the genre”). Portrait albums with Anna’s works have appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, Sono Luminus, and Innova.

Anna’s music is widely performed internationally and has been commissioned by many of the world’s leading orchestras, ensembles, and arts organizations – such as the Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Intercontemporain, BBC Proms, and Carnegie Hall. Among the many other orchestras and ensembles that have performed her music include the Boston Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Bang on a Can All-Stars, BBC Singers, The Crossing, the Bavarian Radio Choir, Münchener Kammerorchester, Avanti Chamber Ensemble, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Portrait concerts with Anna’s music have been featured at several major venues and music festivals, including Wigmore Hall, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC, London’s Spitalfields Music Festival, Münchener Kammerorchester’s Nachtmusic der Moderne series, the Composer Portraits Series at NYC’s Miller Theatre, the Leading International Composers series at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s Point Festival. Other prominent venues and festivals include the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh Festival, London’s Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Lucerne Summer Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Helsinki’s Musica Nova Festival, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  

Anna is currently based in the London area. She regularly teaches and gives presentations on composition, in academic settings, as part of residencies, and in private lessons. Invited lectures and presentations include Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, NYU, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Sibelius Academy, and the Royal Academy of Music in London. Anna is currently Composer-in-Residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. She holds a PhD (2011) from the University of California in San Diego.


Photo by Anna Maggý



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