In Focus: Anna Thorvaldsdottir at RNCM

Johnny James, Managing Editor
Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Anna Maggy

In Focus: Anna Thorvaldsdottir at Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester 4 — 6 May 2022 Tickets from £5.00 — Book now

This May, the RNCM welcomes Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir to Manchester for a three-day celebration of her ethereally beautiful music.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music calls to mind the mighty natural forces of her native Iceland, translating the ecosystems of nature into orchestral soundscapes whose materials continuously grow in and out of each other. Described by the New York Times as possessing a “seemingly boundless textural imagination”, Thorvaldsdottir is widely regarded as one of the most arresting musical voices to emerge from Iceland since the likes of Sigur Rós or Björk (who, naturally, is a fan). Her trailblazing style has led to commissions from the Berlin and New York Philharmonics, City of Birmingham and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestras, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Carnegie Hall. Most recently, her string quartet Enigma, recorded and released in August 2021, was a New York Times recording of the year.

Three separate events will showcase the breadth of Thorvaldsdottir’s output, from orchestral pieces to chamber works to music for ensemble. First up on Wednesday 4 May is the RNCM Brand New Orchestra, who will perform the composer’s spellbinding Dreaming alongside new works by RNCM composers. “Dreaming”, wrote Andrew Mello of Gramophone in 2019, “is an imposing monolith that emerges from silence and recedes back into it, speaking of natural desolation, severe beauty and precarious tectonics in between.” The piece is a shining example of Thorvaldsdottir’s nature-inspired compositional style, the music behaving like a shifting landscape that unfolds mysteriously, meditatively, in a way that pays no mind to chronological time – like a dream.

Next up on Thursday 5 May, we’ll hear from Thorvaldsdottir herself as she features in conversation with Radio 3’s Elizabeth Alker, discussing her life and work. The evening also includes a full programme of her chamber music performed by RNCM students, along with pieces by two of the College’s most promising composers: Helena Walsh and Eve Vickers. Highlights from the Thorvaldsdottir works include Transitions for cello, which explores the theme of ‘man and machine’ and Rain, a haunting, typically evocative work for soprano, flute, guitar and pre-recorded electronics.

Finally on Friday 6 May, the RNCM New Ensemble will take to the stage to perform a programme including Thorvaldsdottir’s Spectra. The piece is in six short movements, performed in a seamless flow from one movement to the next. Its shivering, aching string lines cascade through undulating waves of tremolos, crescendos, glissandi, and percussive effects, laced with Icelandic melancholy and a hint of distant folksong. Entropic Arrows follows suit, with the composer directing its performers to measure time by imagining long sustained pitches as “a fragile flower that you need to carry in your hands and walk the distance on a thin rope without dropping it or falling”. Aequilibria, meanwhile, was described by The Wall Street Journal as the “musical equivalent of magical realism”, beginning with a sense of melancholy desolation before morphing into something more otherworldly.

All in all it’s a fantastic showcase of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music, and of the talent being nurtured at RNCM. For anyone with an eye towards the future of contemporary music, it’s unmissable.

In Focus: Anna Thorvaldsdottir at Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester 4 — 6 May 2022 Tickets from £5.00 Book now

Where to go near In Focus: Anna Thorvaldsdottir at RNCM

Manchester
Restaurant
San Carlo Fumo

San Carlo Fumo may be part of a chain, but it doesn’t feel like it. Right at the top of Oxford Road, it’s lavishly decorated and specialises in cicchetti, or Italian small plates.

Utility Gift Shop
Manchester
Shop
Utility Gift Shop

Utility Gift Shop on Oxford Road is all about products that are new, unique, quirky and cool. High street shopping at its best.

exterior of Contact Theatre building
Manchester
Theatre
Contact Theatre

Following a major redevelopment, the iconic venue on Oxford Road will be reopening its doors to welcome the public back into the building this autumn. 

The Salutation pub in Manchester
Manchester
Bar or Pub
The Salutation

This traditional boozer, surrounded by imposing flats and university buildings, was taken over by Trof (of the Deaf Institute fame). The Sally, as the regulars call it, hosts an energetic, arty crowd – and its recently expanded outside area is another good reason to visit.

Manchester
University
MMU Student Union

Manchester Metropolitan University Students’ Union building houses a bar and various other facilities for students and staff.

Manchester
Music venue
The Deaf Institute

The Deaf Institute is a vibrant gig venue and nightclub for which it is well worth taking a jaunt out of the Northern Quarter.

What's on: Music

Until
MusicManchester
Open Deck at Band on the Wall

Bring your records for a spin at our Open Deck session this Saturday! If you’ve bought some new vinyl from a local record shop this week, just show your receipt at the bar to get yourself a free 9” pizza!

Refract Festival 2024 at Waterside
Until
FestivalsSale
Refract 24 at Waterside

Back for 2024, Trafford’s flagship arts festival returns to Waterside for six days of experiential performance and cultural delight.

the artist
MusicManchester
Waxahatchee at New Century

Mercurial singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield AKA Waxahatchee performs at New Century in support of her new album, Tigers Blood.

from £29
Festivo Winds
MusicManchester
Festivo Winds at Low Four

One of the UK’s most exciting young wind quintet’s brings an eclectic programme to Low Four studios.

from £5.00

Culture Guides

Rebecca Watson author photo
Literature Events in Manchester and the North

In between working out, then working through, your holiday reading pile this summer, find inspiration for your next bookish acquisitions from our selection of live events and exhibitions.