Icelandic cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir performs music that reflects nature and exile | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Icelandic cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir performs music that reflects nature and exile

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Cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir performs with orchestras and smaller ensembles all around the globe and teaches at the University of Washington in Seattle. But Vernacular, her new CD on Sono Luminus, affirms her Icelandic roots even as it acknowledges her geographic distance from her native land. Thorsteinsdóttir has lived outside Iceland most of her life, and the four Icelandic composers whose work she performs on this recital have likewise lived abroad for extended periods. Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s “Solitaire” and Halldór Smárason’s “O” both intimate the melancholy of exile. And on Þuríður Jónsdóttir's “48 Images of the Moon,” she combines nocturnal field recordings made in a fjord with very quiet articulations of extended string techniques, which together evoke the natural sonic environment of rural Iceland. She bows the suite’s opening passages so quietly that the cello’s sound is dwarfed by the vast silences surrounding it; you get an idea of how small a human might feel gazing inland at Iceland's glacier-covered landscapes or outward across the North Atlantic. And the way Thorsteinsdóttir makes bowed patterns seem to split and separate on Páll Ragnar Pálsson’s “Afterquake” brings to mind the seismic activity that rattles the country. The cellist will perform the album’s four pieces at this solo concert.   v

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