Anna Thorvaldsdottir | Museum of Contemporary Art | Classical | Chicago Reader
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Anna Thorvaldsdottir 

When: Sat., April 25, 7:30 p.m. 2015
Price: $28, $22 members, $10 students
There’s something beautifully refined about the music of Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir—in it, seemingly skeletal structures sprout fragments of dramatic melodies, textures evocative of nature (a la John Luther Adams), and harmonies that open up the heavens. Tonight, for the first full concert of her work in Chicago, cellist Michael Nicolas, violist Kyle Armbrust, harpist Nuiko Wadden, pianist Cory Smythe, and percussionist Nathan Davis of the International Contemporary Ensemble tackle three remarkable compositions. “Tactility”—which turned up on last year’s fantastic Aerial (Deustsche Grammophon), one of my favorite albums of 2014—feels evocatively nocturnal and a little spooky, as it features thudding rubbed percussive sounds embroidered by the harp’s brittle twang and desiccated runs, as well as thwacks against its large frame. Nicolas will perform the recent solo piece “Transitions,” in which spindly, astringent lines are disrupted by flat, percussive pizzicato patterns—imagine a Morse code-like patter ripping apart swaths of melancholy. The highlight of the concert promises to be the local premiere of In the Light of Air, a patient 40-minute, three-movement work she created for ICE that casts a ritualistic trance: piano scrapes, scratchy cello and viola bowing, terse clusters of harp notes, bowed vibraphone tones, and rumbling percussion jut out of a collective murmur. There are passages where instruments line up and trace fragile melodies that are like tendrils of sound crawling over a bleak landscape; later in the piece short but gorgeous soliloquies emerge for piano and viola, followed by repeating long tones and meandering piano that push the music into a distant oblivion. —Peter Margasak

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