Five Songs for Soprano and Orchestra

Five Songs for Soprano and Orchestra by Hafliði Hallgrímsson is one of two SCO commissions in the 2015/16 Season. Often inspired by visual art (himself an accomplished painter), Hallgrímsson has instead chosen to use texts for this work by three of the great English poets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake and Christina Rossetti.

Hallgrímsson’s music is an immersive experience – allowing not only the soloist, but also the orchestra and the audience to be taken into the world of poetic imagination. With each text, he paints a different picture; from the ship sailing out on the open ocean in Coleridge’s ‘Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship…’, to vivid depictions of man’s arrogance towards nature in Blake’s ‘The Fly’, and ending with Rossetti’s ‘Have you forgotten’, delving into that universal preoccupation of mankind – the quest to find real and everlasting love.

Hafliði Hallgrímsson is a familiar face to many in the SCO and the SCO audience – he was Principal Cello with the Orchestra from 1977 to 1983. Despite a successful career as a cellist, he continued to be drawn to composition and in 1983 decided to become a full-time composer. He has since enjoyed fruitful compositional partnerships with several groups and orchestras, including the SCO and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra where he is resident composer.

Another former SCO Principal Cellist, William Conway, also a long-time friend and colleague who has commissioned and performed Hallgrímsson’s music writes: “Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s music conjures up landscapes of ominous dark clouds, the sounds of creaking ice, dramatic surges of light and shifting energy contrasted with beautiful, soulful lines of melody. Although there is clear structure and rigour in his work, Hafliði the visual artist and Hafliði the composer share a richly creative palette of colour, creating music of intensity and integrity.”


The poems included are ‘Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship…’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘The Fly’ and ‘Little Boy Lost’ by William Blake and ‘De Profundis’ and ‘Have you forgotten’ by Christina Rossetti. The SCO will perform Five Songs for Soprano and Orchestra on 26 & 27 February 2016 in Glasgow and Edinburgh.


Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s new work is kindly supported by Cruden Foundation

Hallgrímsson poster