Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Rhizoma Bridges the Gap Between Mystic and Mythic

Q2 Music Album of the Week for November 1, 2011 | Free Download of "Hrim"

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Between Monday night’s Halloween festivities and Saturday’s not inconsiderable early snowstorm, we’re catapulting into November on an unsettlingly uneven keel, the type that often yields a charged atmosphere.

With that in mind, Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s debut album, Rhizoma, was released somewhat presciently just one week ago, bringing with it soundscapes that are epically vast tundras, complete with an added dimension that speaks to the 80 percent of Icelanders who believe in the possibility of elves, gnomes and the like.

There’s a grandeur in Rhizoma’s three longer tracks—Hrim (8:03), Dreaming (17:25) and Streaming Arhythmia (19:32)—that speaks to seemingly endless winters, volcanic ash, healing waters and grandiose clouds passing overhead. However, what makes them (along with the other five tracks interspersed throughout and collectively forming Hidden) so engrossing is an eye for the minutest of details. If, as the adage goes, every snowflake is different, then every note in Thorvaldsdottir’s intricate compositions is equally unique, a nod perhaps to her teacher at University of California in San Diego Lei Liang, who manipulates such pointillistic details to equally haunting and enveloping effects.

The album’s nifty tricks, however, pale in comparison to the treats: Icelandic compatriot and fellow composer Daníel Bjarnason leads the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in a spirited account of this disc, infusing Thorvaldsdottir’s works with a requisite amount of enchantment, myth and imagery. We may not see snow again until after the winter solstice, but in the meantime this will tide us over.


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Comments [9]


Another two cents: It works incredibly well how Anna uses the percussed piano tracks ("Hidden") as "palate-cleansers" in between the orchestra works, but it is also extremely rewarding to just listen to these tracks successively, as an independent piece.

Nov. 11 2011 07:52 AM

The album is amazing. It makes me feel like I am back in Iceland immersed in its dark but beautiful nature.

Nov. 09 2011 11:39 PM

Great pick, Q2! A truly haunting and sublime recording that's both sweeping in grandeur and fascinating in its tiniest details. It reveals multitudes on multiple listens.

Nov. 09 2011 02:24 PM

This album is simply wonderful.

Nov. 09 2011 01:43 PM

wonderfully dark and complex compositions. without a doubt, the "it" album in icelandic music.

Nov. 09 2011 12:07 PM

Wonderful music - and I definitely agree that one of the things that make Rhizoma such an engrossing album is the composer's "eye for the minutest of details."

Nov. 09 2011 11:31 AM

Absolutely amazing album. It's so great to see it get the recognition it deserves!

Nov. 09 2011 10:39 AM

like sitting on a glacier in the sunlight. Just Great.

Nov. 09 2011 10:26 AM
Sean Hickey

Kudos to WQXR for picking a Disc of the Week that really deserves the attention. New music sublime and beautiful, and a composer entirely unknown to me until I stumbled upon this captivating disc myself.

Nov. 09 2011 06:57 AM

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About Q2 Music Album of the Week

Q2 Music's Album of the Week is our weekly review of the newest and most dynamic contemporary classical releases. It focuses on musical discovery, world premiere recordings and fresh perspectives on today's classical landscape. Read our review and stream the album on-demand for one week only at


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