METACOSMOS

For orchestra
Duration 14 min.

Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Society with the generous support of The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music. 

METACOSMOS was premiered in Lincoln Center's Geffen Hall by the New York Philharmonic April 4th 2018, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The European premiere was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert, in Jan 2019. Performance available in the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall.

Selected reviews:
"Thorvaldsdottir’s command of a large orchestra is hugely impressive, and she conjures up myriad special effects, captured in all their variety and delicacy by Gilbert and the [Berlin Philharmonic]. ... [T]he score quickly established itself as a thing of imaginatively varied textures and rhythms: the former often headily beautiful, the latter occasional brutal. ... [Metacosmos] offered moments of disarming beauty towards its close as we heard snatches of warmly melodic material, ideas beyond our reach dimly recollected in the fading of the light, before everything floated off into nothingness." - Hugo Shirley, Bachtrack, Jan 26 2019

"Metacosmos, a gorgeous and engrossing tone poem by the 41-year-old Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, proved to be one of those creations whose philosophical aspects are helpful but not essential to understanding. Over some 15 minutes of delicate, gauzy orchestral landscape punctuated by brusque rhythmic interpolations, Thorvaldsdottir creates a series of vivid scenes – each one phasing into the next as if in some kind of phantasmagoria. There is something ideological at work here, no doubt, but often it’s enough just to marvel at the care and inventiveness of Thorvaldsdottir’s fertile imagination." - Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan 19 2019

"[Salonen] conducted the radiant premiere of a richly atmospheric piece by the Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir. ... I was captivated by the intricacy of the sounds and colors. Ms. Thorvaldsdottir did indeed take us on a dark journey, episodic yet clear. ... During a few wistful moments, short melodic phrases in a natural minor scale sigh atop mellow harmonies. These seemingly conventional passages actually came across as reflective stops on the promised odyssey through chaos and beauty. ... At Geffen Hall, “Metacosmos” was the highlight." - Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times April 6th 2018

"I went west last weekend to hear Esa-Pekka Salonen’s first concerts with the band he’ll soon take over, the San Francisco Symphony. It was an exciting evening, with the promise of a happy marriage: intense, committed yet self-effacing playing from a very good orchestra. Mr. Salonen brought over Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s “Metacosmos,” which he led with the New York Philharmonic last year. It’s a sly, darkly gorgeous piece, and a perfect complement to Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” - Zachary Wolfe, NY Times, Jan 25 2019

"For a memorable night at the New York Philharmonic, there’s nothing like a spectacular world premiere or a dazzling debut. Exceptionally, Wednesday’s concert led by Esa-Pekka Salonen had both. ... Opening the program, Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos made a powerful impression in its debut performance, evoking an enormous vista of space and time in a 12-minute span with broad, artfully blended strokes of orchestral color. ... Listening to [Thorvaldsdottir's] piece, one couldn’t help thinking of the saying attributed to the scientist J.B.S Haldane, that the Universe is not only stranger than we suppose, it is stranger than we can suppose." David Wright, New York Classical Review April 5th 2018

"Written for a large orchestra and taking full advantage of various timbral colorings, Metacosmos is an eerie, atmospheric piece... Cues in this musical tapestry, superbly laid out by Salonen, are almost seamlessly passed from one group of instruments to another. Growing tensions between strings, winds and percussion take the listener on a voyage imbued with amazement but also angst. At points, one has the impression of vistas without borders. Elsewhere, huge, unknown beings, heavily breathing, seem to be very close. Bursts of spiraling energy alternate with moments of supreme calm. ... In Metacosmos, Thorvaldsdóttir proves again to be an artist of deep originality." - Edward Sava-Segal, Bachtrack April 6th 2018

Program notes:
Metacosmos is constructed around the natural balance between beauty and chaos – how elements can come together in (seemingly) utter chaos to create a unified, structured whole. The idea and inspiration behind the piece, which is connected as much to the human experience as to the universe, is the speculative metaphor of falling into a black hole – the unknown – with endless constellations and layers of opposing forces connecting and communicating with each other, expanding and contracting, projecting a struggle for power as the different sources pull on you and you realize that you are being drawn into a force that is beyond your control.

As with my music generally, the inspiration behind Metacosmos 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.

The piece is in one movement and is approximately 14 minutes in duration.

A full recording of METACOSMOS performed by The Iceland Symphony Orchestra, from a performance on January 31st 2019, conducted by Daníel Bjarnason.

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An excerpt from METACOSMOS, performed by The Berlin Philharmonic on January 26 2019, conducted by Alan Gilbert. The full performance is available in the Digital Concert Hall of the Berliner Philharmoniker here.

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A two-minute clip from rehearsal with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen (April 3rd 2018)