Author Topic: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968  (Read 17594 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #20 on: July 21, 2009, 02:08:21 PM »
Leifs is really interesting.

I can see the comparisons between Leifs and Brian based on that monolithic, craggy, "force of nature" sound. But Brian, not the most melodic of composers, is certainly more of a melodist than Leifs! This makes Leifs a composer I can;t spend a whole day listening to, but taken in the appropriate smaller chunks, he's great!

The Saga Symphony is a very good work with some LOUD percussion. I'm a bog fan of his Organ Concerto. It is one of the angriest works I have ever heard. I really can a feel a sort of seething rage in it.

The latest BIS disc, the first installment of the Edda, was not all that impressive to me. The music is very repetitive with little contrast between sections. Did anyone else get this same feeling?

Re Edda, yes I did but I only listened to it once and it certainly has some beautiful sections.
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Offline Tapkaara

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #21 on: July 21, 2009, 02:12:04 PM »
Re Edda, yes I did but I only listened to it once and it certainly has some beautiful sections.

Ahaaa...so I am not the only one who thought this.

Truth be told, Leif's soundworld is somewhat limited in general. That's why the "small chunks" are necessary (for me, anyway) when listening. Too much Leifs can cause your vision to blur and your ears to ring. But he certainly was an against the grain kind of guy, and I admire him for that.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2011, 02:21:30 PM »
I bought two recordings of Leif's orchestral music last night both on BIS. The rest of the series was quite expensive, so I think I'll wait for those recordings to drop in price.


I read somewhere that he composed some of the loudest classical music ever. I'm not sure if I buy this as a marketing strategy, but it really did get my attention. :)


Of the current roster of GMG members, can any of you provide some insight into his music?
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2011, 07:47:48 PM »
I bought two recordings of Leif's orchestral music last night both on BIS. The rest of the series was quite expensive, so I think I'll wait for those recordings to drop in price.


I read somewhere that he composed some of the loudest classical music ever. I'm not sure if I buy this as a marketing strategy, but it really did get my attention. :)


Of the current roster of GMG members, can any of you provide some insight into his music?

Leifs's Hekla is the most notorious piece of his that gets touted as the loudest piece ever. If you aren't familiar, it has a percussion section that reads more like a manifest of a Scandinavian war vessel's stock room. It also has an optional chorus (included on most recordings). Not to mention, it has an organ and some really huge brass writing. It is a piece that is definitely meant for a good stereo system. He has other works that are pretty loud, like his Saga Symphony and Geysir (he has 4 tone poems based on Icelandic natural specimens), but none compare to Hekla. Seek out the Segerstam recording if you can find it. The recording on BIS is also good, but a bit slow and the microphones didn't capture some of the percussion effects as well.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #24 on: January 05, 2011, 07:55:25 PM »
Leifs's Hekla is the most notorious piece of his that gets touted as the loudest piece ever. If you aren't familiar, it has a percussion section that reads more like a manifest of a Scandinavian war vessel's stock room. It also has an optional chorus (included on most recordings). Not to mention, it has an organ and some really huge brass writing. It is a piece that is definitely meant for a good stereo system. He has other works that are pretty loud, like his Saga Symphony and Geysir (he has 4 tone poems based on Icelandic natural specimens), but none compare to Hekla. Seek out the Segerstam recording if you can find it. The recording on BIS is also good, but a bit slow and the microphones didn't capture some of the percussion effects as well.


Thank you for your help. Hekla sounds like it's right up my alley.
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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #25 on: January 07, 2011, 02:20:44 AM »
The rest of the series was quite expensive, so I think I'll wait for those recordings to drop in price.

BIS never drops in price. There's an interview with Robert von Bahr where he says that he likes it that way: each recording should be treasured, while budget and midline series send people on collecting sprees without appreciating what they have.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2011, 02:25:37 AM by CRCulver »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #26 on: January 07, 2011, 08:38:05 AM »
BIS never drops in price. There's an interview with Robert von Bahr where he says that he likes it that way: each recording should be treasured, while budget and midline series send people on collecting sprees without appreciating what they have.


Thankfully, I use Amazon Marketplace and usually they offer BIS discs at way better prices than any other websites.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #27 on: August 22, 2011, 10:03:14 AM »
Thought I would resurrect this thread and say that Leifs's music is simply magnificent! It is wise to take his music in small doses as advised in this thread earlier because of it's force, inherent ruggedness, and the sheer volume of many of works.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #28 on: January 14, 2013, 04:41:25 PM »
How appropriate that I'm starting a Leifs marathon around the time I bought most of his recordings on BIS in January of 2011. :) Anyway, what can I say, the guy is just awesome. As mentioned many times, nature plays a huge role in many of Leifs' works, but this shouldn't diminish the other side of Leifs' music, which is very personal and introspective I'm thinking here of his String Quartet No. 2 (dedicated to the memory of his daughter), Elegy (written in memory of his mother), Requiem (for a cappella mixed choir), Reminiscence du Nord, among others. While some may think of his music is rather limited, I urge these people to look outside of those earthly tone poems and into the more personal side to his music, although I do love those huge works a lot.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 04:43:41 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline The new erato

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #29 on: January 15, 2013, 02:50:13 AM »
Thought I would resurrect this thread and say that Leifs's music is simply magnificent! It is wise to take his music in small doses as advised in this thread earlier because of it's force, inherent ruggedness, and the sheer volume of many of works.
Well, of the Leifs's I've heard the one I like the most are the string quartets, and they are exactly the opposite. Very interesting and intimate works, but still highly original.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #30 on: January 15, 2013, 09:13:42 AM »
BIS never drops in price. There's an interview with Robert von Bahr where he says that he likes it that way: each recording should be treasured, while budget and midline series send people on collecting sprees without appreciating what they have.

In a sense, I can appreciate this view. This said, I have bought many BIS recordings below full market price, which is always a good thing. I think highly of their recordings though regardless of the price. In Scandinavian music, they're almost unmatched.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #31 on: January 15, 2013, 12:51:18 PM »
A few questions:

1. How did Leifs arrive at his compositional voice? It's so singular and unique.

2. Does anyone know where I could find a copy of the film Tears of Stone? I'm quite interested in watching this film.

3. Does anyone own the Chandos recording with Petri Sakari? Is it any good? I own all the BIS recordings, so I'm now looking at performances outside that stellar series.

Thanks.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #32 on: January 16, 2013, 12:30:00 PM »
Hey, snyprrr, help me keep the this Leifs thread afloat!

What do you think about his music? What have you heard? Do you own any recordings of his music? The BIS series is indispensable.
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Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #33 on: January 16, 2013, 01:50:37 PM »
help me keep the this Leifs thread afloat!

I'll certainly help!!
John, you were certainly right when you said this composer would be my kind of composer! ;) Wow - this composer is incredible!! Listened to the Icelandic Overture a few days ago and was very impressed, and am currently listening to Geysir. This is great! What a thrilling climax in particular, INCREDIBLE orchestration! So much percussion! :D :D

Very keen to hear more of his music, and am very interested to find out more about the man himself. I mean, his music is quite unlike anything I've ever heard!! What was his lifestory and how did it drive him to this incredible, other-worldly music?!

Geysir has converted me into a might enthusiastic Leif-fan and I can't wait to hear more!! :D 
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #34 on: January 16, 2013, 01:55:43 PM »
Hey, Daniel! I'm glad you're enjoying the music. Leifs music continues to grow on me the more I listen to it. His sound-world is unlike any composer I've heard. What I'm trying to figure out is how he came to form his style of composition. Besides the explosive and volcanic tone poems, he has composed some rather lyrical and introspective works as well, but it is these earth-shattering works that continue to get attention from listeners. There's still several works I haven't heard yet. Like the work Viking's Answer which, from what I've read, is a hotbed of aggression and anger. Right up my alley! :)
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Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #35 on: January 16, 2013, 02:00:02 PM »
Hey, Daniel! I'm glad you're enjoying the music. Leifs music continues to grow on me the more I listen to it. His sound-world is unlike any composer I've heard. What I'm trying to figure out is how he came to form his style of composition. Besides the explosive and volcanic tone poems, he has composed some rather lyrical and introspective works as well, but it is these earth-shattering works that continue to get attention from listeners. There's still several works I haven't heard yet. Like the work Viking's Answer which, from what I've read, is a hotbed of aggression and anger. Right up my alley! :)

Thank you, John, and thank you for introducing me to him in the first place! Listening to Geysir over and over as it's so incredible!! I can't wait to hear more of his works. Yes, that's something I'm trying to figure out as well, as his music is just so other-worldly and different! What are your thoughts on this so far?
I look forward to hearing that other side of his work too. I might have to buy the cd with Geysir on it, the other works also sound great. The Consolation I can imagine being very profound and beautiful considering when it was written, but I do wonder how this translates from the Leifs I have heard so far....
Looking forward to finding out!! :)
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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #36 on: January 16, 2013, 02:10:12 PM »
Thank you, John, and thank you for introducing me to him in the first place! Listening to Geysir over and over as it's so incredible!! I can't wait to hear more of his works. Yes, that's something I'm trying to figure out as well, as his music is just so other-worldly and different! What are your thoughts on this so far?
I look forward to hearing that other side of his work too. I might have to buy the cd with Geysir on it, the other works also sound great. The Consolation I can imagine being very profound and beautiful considering when it was written, but I do wonder how this translates from the Leifs I have heard so far....
Looking forward to finding out!! :)

You're welcome, my friend. Anytime I can introduce new music to people is a great privilege. I would say that a lot of Leifs' anger comes from, and this is just a guess and a personal assessment, the cool reception his music met and from the constant harassment he received from the Nazis (his wife was Jewish) during his stay in Germany. But there's also the devastation he felt from the loss of his daughter (she drowned in a swimming accident). I would say these were all negative points in his life that contributed to the outward emotional aggressiveness of his music. The question of how he formed his style is something that I'm trying to figure out. He chose a rather stark way of representing his musical ideas. Sometimes the orchestration is so bareboned that you wonder what is holding this music together. I know a work like Hekla was inspired by Leifs himself witnessing the eruption of that volcano. Those huge crackling noises in that work is the molten lava overflowing from the volcano. Anyway, the landscape of Iceland played a crucial element in his music, but it's interesting to hear those works that are more personal as well.
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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #37 on: January 16, 2013, 02:27:51 PM »
You're welcome, my friend. Anytime I can introduce new music to people is a great privilege. I would say that a lot of Leifs' anger comes from, and this is just a guess and a personal assessment, the cool reception his music met and from the constant harassment he received from the Nazis (his wife was Jewish) during his stay in Germany. But there's also the devastation he felt from the loss of his daughter (she drowned in a swimming accident). I would say these were all negative points in his life that contributed to the outward emotional aggressiveness of his music. The question of how he formed his style is something that I'm trying to figure out. He chose a rather stark way of representing his musical ideas. Sometimes the orchestration is so bareboned that you wonder what is holding this music together. I know a work like Hekla was inspired by Leifs himself witnessing the eruption of that volcano. Those huge crackling noises in that work is the molten lava overflowing from the volcano. Anyway, the landscape of Iceland played a crucial element in his music, but it's interesting to hear those works that are more personal as well.
Thank you, John - and it's always a great privilege to be introduced to one so enthusiastically from you!
Ah yes, I read about those tragedies which must have made a massive impact on him and his music. Wasn't it also true that some believed him to have Nazi-sympathies himself?
I am very interested to hear his earlier works, and to see what his earlier style was like. What do you think, John?
And yes, how did he develop this style? Were there any composers that particularly influenced him? I have to admit to not really knowing much about the Icelandic musical scene at the time. No-one is quite like him!!

Can't get Geysir out of my mind, it's so incredible! It's been a while since a piece had such an impact on me on just first hearing!! :D
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #38 on: January 16, 2013, 02:52:14 PM »
Thank you, John - and it's always a great privilege to be introduced to one so enthusiastically from you!
Ah yes, I read about those tragedies which must have made a massive impact on him and his music. Wasn't it also true that some believed him to have Nazi-sympathies himself?
I am very interested to hear his earlier works, and to see what his earlier style was like. What do you think, John?
And yes, how did he develop this style? Were there any composers that particularly influenced him? I have to admit to not really knowing much about the Icelandic musical scene at the time. No-one is quite like him!!

Can't get Geysir out of my mind, it's so incredible! It's been a while since a piece had such an impact on me on just first hearing!! :D

The earliest composition of Leifs' is Trilogia piccola, Op. 1 and this work already has his stylistic elements in place. A very primitive sounding work like many of his later compositions. This work was written in the early 1920s. I think, and, again, this is just a guess, that he worked long and hard to forge his own style before he was happy with any of it which means that he could have written music early on that he wasn't particularly proud of so threw the music in the garbage until he was satisfied. It should be noted that many of his works were never even premiered until after his death. I could be wrong and getting some dates messed up of course. This is why I need to go read through those BIS liner notes since there's not a lot of information on the composer's oeuvre.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 02:54:00 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Tears of Stone: Jon Leifs 1899-1968
« Reply #39 on: January 16, 2013, 02:57:32 PM »
JON LEIFS: A CATALOGUE OF THE ORCHESTRA: MUSIC

1915-25: “Loftr-Suite” for orchestra, op.6a: 12 minutes + (BIS cd)
1917-30: Organ Concerto, op.7: 19 minutes + (BIS cd)
1919-24: “Trologia piccola” for orchestra, op.1: 11 minutes + (BIS cd)
1920-30: Variations on a Theme by Ludwig van Beethoven for orchestra, op.8:
11 minutes + (BIS cd)
1926: Iceland Overture for chorus and orchestra, op.9: 11 minutes + (Chandos
and BIS cds)
1927: Overture “Loftr”, op.10: 7 minutes + (BIS cd)
1929/31: Icelandic Folk Dances for orchestra, op.11: 12 minutes + (BIS cd)
1929/36: “Lullaby” for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, op.14a, No.2: 2 minutes
+ (BIS cd)
1930: Iceland Cantata for chorus and orchestra, op.13: 20 minutes
+ (Chandos and BIS cds)
“Moon Song” for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, op.14a, No.1: 1 minute
+ (BIS cd)
1930-39: Oratorio “Edda I: The Creation of the World” for tenor, bass-baritone,
chorus and orchestra: 76 minutes + (BIS cd)
1940: “The Lay of Gudrun” for mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass and orchestra, op.22:
10 minutes + (BIS cd)
1941-42: Saga Symphony, op.26: 54 minutes + (BIS cd)
1951-66: Oratorio “Edda II: The Lives of the Gods” for soloists, chorus and orchestra,
op.42
1952: “Reminiscence du Nord” for string orchestra, op.40: 15 minutes
+ (BIS cd)
1955: Overture “Landfall” for chorus and orchestra, op. 41: 9 minutes + (BIS cd)
“Trois pentures abstraites” for orchestra, op.44: 5 minutes + (BIS cd)
1958: “Spring Song” for chorus and orchestra, op. 46: 4 minutes + (BIS cd)
1961: “Jonas Hallgrimsson in memoriam” for chorus and orchestra, op.48:
6 minutes + (BIS cd)
Prelude “Geysir” for orchestra, op.51: 9 minutes + (BIS cd)
“Hekla” for chorus and orchestra, op.52: 11 minutes + (BIS cd)
Elegy(In memoriam) for string orchestra, op.53: 7 minutes
+ (Chandos and BIS cds)
1962: Intermezzo “Viking’s Answer” for wind ensemble, percussion, violas and
double-basses, op.54: 3 minutes + (BIS cd)
1963: “Fine I” for orchestra, op.55: 3 minutes + (Chandos and BIS cds)
“Fine II” for vibraphone and string orchestra, op.56: 6 minutes
+ (Chandos and BIS cds)
1964: “Dettifoss” for baritone, chorus and orchestra, op.57: 16 minutes
+ (BIS cd)
“Scherzo concreto” for chamber ensemble, op.58
“Night” for tenor, baritone and small orchestra, op.59: 12 minutes
+ (BIS cd)
“Song of Durrud” for chorus and orchestra, op. 60
“The Lay of Helgi the Hunding-slayer” for contralto, bass and small
orchestra, op.61: 8 minutes + (BIS cd)
1965: “Groa’s Spell” for contralto, tenor and orchestra, op.62: 18 minute + (BIS cd)
“Hafis” for chorus and orchestra, op.63: 17 minutes + (BIS cd)
1966-68: Oratorio “Edda III: The Twilight of the Gods” for soloists, chorus and
orchestra, op.65 (incomplete)
1968: Intermezzo “Consolation”

(All taken from Colin's website)

His list is the ONLY one I could find on the Internet! How crazy is that! Anyway, I hope Colin doesn't mind me copying it here.
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