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Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Publisher: Chester Music

Enigma (2019)
The work was co-commissioned by Spektral Quartet, Carnegie Hall, and Washington Performing Arts. The World Premiere was given by Spektral Quartet in the Kennedy Center's Terrace in Washington, D.C. on October 29, 2019.
Chester Music Ltd
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
26 Minutes
Unavailable Explain this...
Programme Note
The music of Enigma is inspired by the notion of the “in-between”, juxtaposing flow and fragmentation. Pulsating stasis - the “whole”, an expanding and contracting fundament - is contrasted with fragmented materials - shadows of things that live as part of the whole. Harmonies emerge and evaporate or break into pieces in various ways, leaving traces of materials that project through different kinds of textures and nuances and gradually take on their own shape. Some return to the core, some remain apart. Throughout the piece, the perspective continuously moves between the two, the fundament and the fragmented shadows, but the focus is always their relationship - the “in-between”.

As with my music generally, the inspiration behind Enigma is not something I am trying to describe through the piece - to me, the qualities of the music are first and foremost musical. When I am inspired by a particular element or quality, it is because I perceive it as musically interesting, and the qualities I tend to be inspired by are often structural, like proportion and flow, as well as relationships of balance between details within a larger structure, and how to move in perspective between the two — the details and the unity of the whole.

  • 02 MAR 2020
    Murchison Performing Arts Center, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA
    Spektral Quartet
  • 29 MAR 2020
    Calderwood Hall, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, USA
    Spektral Quartet
  • 03 APR 2020
    Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, University of California San Diego, CA, USA
    Spektral Quartet

    Other Dates:
    27 April - Daniel Recital Hall / Spartanburg, SC / USA
  • 27 APR 2020
    Daniel Recital Hall, Converse College, Spartanburg, SC, USA
    Spektral Quartet
  • 11 JUN 2020
    Logan Center for the Arts / Chicago, IL / USA
    Spektral Quartet

    Other Dates:
    12 June - Adler Planetarium / Chicago, IL / USA

Thorvaldsdottir teases additional mystery from the strings, masking them until at times you’d swear you were hearing electronic instruments, or a wind ensemble or percussion. ...Like other pieces of Thorvaldsdottir’s I’ve heard, “Enigma” sits on the border between concert music and installation art; it marshals sounds in ways that have little to do with the conventional pathways of Western classical music. ...Opening with a low, whistling rumble, like white noise through a speaker, it hardly leaves any sound unmodified. Even the few pure notes it allows the violin are transformed into swallowed, stifled whispers by the end of a phrase. It’s not something you want to describe using musical vocabulary; talking about col legno, the use of the wooden part of the bow to create a quiet, sexless sound, is less pertinent than comparing the experience of the piece to walking along a windswept seashore, looking at what the tide has exposed.
Anne Midgette, Washington Post,30/10/2019
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