Reviews · Bára Gísladóttir Debut Concert

Bára Gísladóttír graduated as a composer from the Royal Danish Academy of Music with a concert in Grundtvigs Kirke that received a standing ovation from the audience and fine reviews on the front page of the cultural section of Politiken as well as in Seismograf.

'Víddir' world premiere, Bára Gísladóttir's debut concert, Grundtvigs Kirke 

Several hundred people were gathered in Grundtvigs Kirke Wednesday evening for the world premiere of Bára Gísladóttir’s Víddir – her debut concert from the Royal Danish Music AcademyVíddir (2019) was composed for the remarkable acoustics of Grundtvig’s Church. The piece was performed by Bára Gísladóttir herself on double bass, with bass guitarist Skúli Sverrisson, an ensemble of 9 flutes, and the percussion ensemble Neko3.

We have gathered a few excerpts from the fine reviews by the Danish newspaper Politiken and online magazine Seismograf.

Review in Politiken

“Typically for the apocalypse-oriented Icelander, she was performing the piece herself. Many young composers take to the stage to perform their own works, and Bára Gísladóttir's debut piece, which began with a howling choir of furies armed with bass flutes, was given the Islandic title ‘Víddir’. What the crowded church experienced, was what Bára Gísladóttir very precisely described as a “sonic landscape”, where textures, layers, and dimensions – víddir means dimensions in Icelandic – played a vital part”. 

“Accompanied by her regular bass companion, Icelandic bassist Skúli Sverinsson, Bára Gísladóttir began by evoking a heavy, threatening, distorted bass soundscape. She intensely bowed it to life with overtones from her large instrument painting the ominous, while Sverrinsson continually strummed his fingers on the electric bass to create a perilous, endless depth underneath her nuanced, flute-like double bass notes made by the bow on the very upper end of the fingerboard”. 

Bára Gísladóttir performing 'Víddir' · Photo Finn Frandsen

“...there is something about Bára Gísladóttir music which this time – as with the other times I have experienced her works – unites the delicately nuanced with a patient and in-depth approach in an exploration of destruction as a phenomenon. Something that seems authentic”.

“Bára Gísladóttir believes in the apocalypse. On Wednesday evening in Grundtvigskirken it (red. the apocalypse) howled its way through imaginary cracks in the tall, yellow brick walls of the church making the debut piece ‘Víddir’ a big, living organism, which gradually ebbed out quietly after an hour of intensely structured improvisation”. 

Read the whole article here.

Review in Seismograf

The monolithic landscape-in-sound we heard inside was scored for all manner of instruments including Gísladóttir’s own double bass but the one she really had in her sights – the beast she seemed so set on taming – was the one we were all huddled inside: Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint’s slender yellow brick nave with its immense reverberating acoustic. Víddir (‘Dimensions’) was the work’s title and felt like one of those Icelandic words that stretches far beyond the confines of its already broad definition. Dimensions of all forms we experienced, at every turn, during a work whose primeval rumbles and tectonic judderings felt like snapshots of a far bigger process, one whose naturally recurring cycles neither begin nor end (or weren’t designed to end until humans got involved).”


Most interesting musically, structurally, thematically was the uncompromising runic chant of Gísladóttir’s own double bass, itself laid over the deep murmuring created by Skúli Sverrisson’s tapping on his processed bass guitar, which echoed through the church as if through a cave. Gísladóttir’s patient improvisation was born of intense listening and reactivity – to itself, to Sverrisson, to the room.”

Perhaps that’s to read Víddir as a narrative saga rather than a meteorological and/or metaphysical experience. At its most overwhelming, it felt like a treeless Icelandic Tapiola, roaring through the tall nave like the east wind and with a colour spectrum so broad and deep that the best way to try to get inside it was to close your eyes and concentrate.”

Seismograf praises Gísladóttir as a composer: “a composer who sees particular forms of darkness in this world, has the raw talent and self-discipline to be able to present them clearly and can apparently realize them in so many different forms,” and “Yet it was, at the same time, so clearly the work of an individual, partisan composer who senses her purpose and has little problem semaphoring it out”.

Read the full article here

Read more about the composer and her works