Leifs studied and worked in central Europe but on returning to Iceland in the 1940s he set about creating a new Icelandic sound – based, inevitably, on the unique folk music and tectonic geology of his country. He started to concentrate on orchestral works, the better to portray the monumental landscapes and forces of nature that were to be his main subjects. Geysir, from 1962, epitomises this style. Other works include Hekla which depicts the eruption of the volcano (pictured) which he witnessed in 1947, and Dettifoss was inspired by Europe’s most powerful waterfall.
Volkov brings Geysir together with Tómasson’s (b.1960) Magma and two other works that are tectonic in scale: Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Schumann’s A minor piano concerto, in what seems to be an inspired piece of programming, unlike the awkward juxtaposing of contemporary and familiar works that we often expect from the Proms. Hence the title of Thursday’s Prom: Classical Tectonics. I’m not familiar with Tómasson but the Iceland Musical Exchange says that “Tomasson has a keen ear for sonority and can evoke the gargantuan in music just as easily as he can the ice-delicate”. If that’s a fair description, he will be a perfect successor to Leifs.
This morning on Radio 3 CD Review includes (about 30 minutes into the programme) a portrait of Leifs. The programme is available for the next 7 days, and the Proms composer portraits are also available as podcasts. The Prom is broadcast live at 7.30 on Friday, and can be heard for 30 days on iPlayer.