Thursday, April 02, 2015

Salon at the Rex: Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir

Last week I heard Icelandic cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir give a solo recital in the Salon at the Rex. The somber & introspective program paired Bach's Cello Suite in C major with Britten's Suite for Solo Cello #3, which has a theme clearly based on the Bach. I was immediately struck by the dark, chocolately sound of Ms. Thorsteinsdóttir's cello, & her playing was soft & had no rough edges. She displayed a rhythmic freedom that made her performance feel ruminative & personal. The eerie opening of the Britten, with its stretched notes, silences & pizzicato, was effective in the small space, & Ms. Thorsteinsdóttir executed the piece's many technical challenges with nonchalance.

The program continued with the slightly hypnotic Portrait, by New York-based composer Jane Antonia Cornish. Its non-stop arpeggios create the illusion of multiple voices. Ms. Thorsteinsdóttir concluded with her own arrangement of an Icelandic folk song. She explained that the song's last line, "You know what I mean," refers to something unspoken, & its mood was fittingly forlorn.

The lights were dimmed for this performance, & the salon attendees were quiet & attentive listeners. A Q&A followed, & we learned that Ms. Thorsteinsdóttir recently performed in Abu Dhabi. The audience was interested to see how she read the music off an iPad, using a foot pedal to turn the pages.

§ Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello
Salon at the Rex

J.S. Bach: Suite in C major BWV 1009
B. Britten: Suite for Solo Cello #3 op. 87
Jane Antonia Cornish: "Portrait" for Solo Cello

Icelandic folksong, arranged by the performer

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Hotel Rex

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