Icelandic composer Áskell Másson invites us on a musical voyage in his "langskip" (the magnificent longship of the Viking conquerors). Secret destinations aboard a frail craft, braving the storms of sound from which ring out, against a background of water, wind and creaking of ancient timbers, the drums and songs of life in our own time.
Enjoy discovering and exploring Askell Masson's music and activities!
Trumpet Competition in Anna, Spain
The second International Trumpet Competition «Juan García Marín» will be held from July 5th to 9th, 2011 in Anna (Valencia, Spain).
The finalists will have to perform Shadows , Concerto for trumpet and brass quintet by Askell Masson , with the Spanish Brass Luur Metalls . A unique opportunity to play with one of the best ensembles in the world.
1st Prize: 6.000 € and a concertos tour, 2nd Prize: 3.000 €, 3rd Prize: 1.500 €
Find all information on the official website of the competition
Rascher Quartet plays Quatrain
The Rascher Quartet performed Quatrain, a concerto for four saxophones, tubular bells and strings by Áskell Másson with the Rovaniemi Chamber Orchestra conducted by John Storgaard on August 11th, last. The day after, on August 12th, they recorded the work for the Alba Records.
Söngvar um vorið for soprano and orchestra received it´s world premiere on June 10th
Masson´s Söngvar um vorið for soprano and orchestra received it´s world premiere on June 10th, last. The celebrated soprano Sigrún Hjálmtýsdóttir "Diddú" was the soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rumon Gamba. Having premiered two af Masson´s works earlier, this was Gamba´s last concert as a principal conductor of the ISO. Performed to a packed house and an extended applause, the critic of the Morgunbaldid (The Morning Paper) in Reykjavik said:
"The orchestration forwarded a beautiful athmosphere, embraced the voice, enhanced it and coloured it, now with bright colours, now with more shadowy ones. Masson is a versatile composer who can take on many disguises. This time he was in his every day clothes, the musical language of the work unpretencious and simple. So far, this must rank amongst his finest works"
Tender is The North
“This impressive recital sheds new light on the treasures of Scandinavia. Quinn's playing is never less than enthralling and the organ - with Chandos's perfectly balanced engineering - has never sounded finer.”
Gramophone Magazine, July 2010
Critic of the World Premiere at the Westminster Cathedral in London, July 26th, 2009:
[...] The three movements – Moderato, Allegretto and Allegro con fuoco – are finely contrasted and were exceptionally well projected on the Cathedral’s Henry Willis III Grand Organ by this most gifted musician, who went on to give the UK premiere of a new work by Áskell Másson, simply entitled Larghetto. This proved to be another finely imagined composition of the latest generation, with a naturally controlled sense of growth and climax, clearly the product of a naturally gifted composer. It received an excellent performance that would surely have earned the composer’s admiration. [...]
Robert Matthew-Walker – The Organ, London
4 performances of the Konzertstück for snare by Evelyn Glennie
Evelyn Glennie, star of percussion has scheduled 4 performances of the famous Konzertstück for snare drum and orchestra in the first quarter of 2010.
Jan. 22nd and 23rd, 2010. Rhode Island Philharmonic/Larry Rachlett cond.
March 27th 2010. Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, Budapest/Andras Keller cond.
April 6th 2010. Portland Symphony Orchestra, Maine, USA/Alfred Savia cond.
The Konzertstück is available in various instrumentations, snare drum and orchestra, snare drum and piano, snare drum and wind band, snare drum and brass band, snare drum and percussion ensemble at Editions Bim (website)
World premiere of oratorio about St. Cecilia, patron saint of music
A new Icelandic oratorio will be premiered in Hallgrims Church in Reykjavík on Sunday, November 22 2009, at 4 pm. The music is written by the prominent Icelandic composer Áskell Másson on a libretto by one of Iceland‘s cultural icons, writer Thor Vilhjálmsson. The work celebrates the life and martyrdom of St. Cecilia, patron saint of music, and is premiered on her feast day. The premiere promises to be a major event in the musical life of Iceland and will be broadcast live by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV). The broadcast can be heard worldwide here and will be available online for four weeks after the concert.
The oratorio was commissioned by the Friends of the Arts Society of Hallgrims Church, which has inspired the genesis of several major Icelandic church compositions in recent years under the artistic leadership of Hörður Áskelsson, organist of Hallgrims Church, who will conduct the premiere performance of the oratorio.
Four of Iceland‘s best young singers will interpret the solo roles. Soprano Þóra Einarsdóttir sings the exacting title role of Cecilia, while tenor Bragi Bergþórsson, barytone Ágúst Ólafsson and bass Bjarni Thor Kristinsson perform the male roles of the oratorio. The renowned Motet Choir of Hallgrims Church also plays a major role in the performance, as well as the Chamber Orchestra of Hallgrims Church.
The oratorio is scored for an orchestra consisting of 32 musicians and uses the two organs of Hallgrims Church and its famed acoustics to great effect. Some of the percussion instruments used in the work have been specially built for the concert by the request of the composer by sculptor Páll Guðmundsson from Húsafell. In the making of his instruments the artist used stones from the vicinity of Húsafell, which is most appropriate as this historic site in Borgarfjörður is closely linked to the Icelandic veneration of St. Cecilia in the Middle Ages, the church of Húsafell being consecrated to the saint. In view of this fact the libretto of the oratorio is set in Húsafell, as well as in Rome, the native city of St. Cecilia.
The legend of St. Cecilia, who is believed to have been martyred in Rome in the 3rd Century AD, has been an inspiration for musicians through the centuries, and composers such as Handel, Purcell and Britten have written famous odes and oratorios for St. Cecilia. Áskell Másson‘s oratorio, however, is the first major Icelandic composition dedicated to the saint.
Tickets can be purchased in Hallgrims Church (tel. 510 1000) at ISK 3500 each (20 euros).
Cosmic Tree for marimba and 3 percussionists in Final at Brno International Competition
The new Masson piece, COSMIC TREE received it´s premiére last september at the 44th International Music Festival-14th International Performers´Competition. COSMIC TREE being obligatory for the final round of the competition, Áskell Másson also held a position in the jury with David Friedman, Pedro Carneiro, Marta Klimasara and Tomas Ondrucék.
Winners were: First prize: Sabrina Suk Wai Ma (Hong Kong), and second prize: Jonas Brodbeck (Germany). Third prize was not awarded.
About the Work
The title of this piece refers to the cosmic tree of Norse mythology, the Yggdrasill. This tree of life extends to the heavens from the earth, thus uniting them. It is said to have three supportive roots which embrace the whole of the earth. Beneath each root are wells guarded by nornes (fortune women) who decide the lives and destiny of mankind. The beginning of the work is influenced by an icelandic folk song.
Listen to an excerpt here
COSMIC TREE is available at Editions Bim
KLUKKAN (The Bell)
for piano and percussion duo
Written for and premiered at the Dark Music Days, Reykjavik, February 2009.
ORA - Work of the year 2008
ORA, a concerto for 6 percussionists and orchestra was named "Work of the year 2008" at the prize winning ceremony of "Iceland Music Prize". At the ceremony, which took place in the grand studio of the Iceland State Television, Masson received a statuette with the IMP token from the hands of the chairman of the Iceland Composers´League, Kjartan Olafsson.
Askell Masson - Kroumata - Osmo Vänskä
20 years ago Osmo Vänskä begun his work as the Chief Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and these concerts are the final concerts of this successful period. In Vänskä's farewell concerts will be heard as the world première performance the work ORA by Askell Masson, who is one of the most interesting composers of our time.
The soloist in the work is the awsome percussion Ensemble Kroumata. Concert available live on May 8th 2008 on classicLive (online until May 29, 2008). Conductor Osmo Vänskä talks about the upcoming world premiere of ORA for 6 percussionists and orchestra.
Listen to Scandinavia
The book "Listen to Scandinavia" has just come out. In it, there are 37 songs and musical works by as many Scandinavian composers. Musical examples by Grieg, Nielsen, Sibelius, Per Nörgård, Arne Nordheim, Sven-David Sandström and Askell Masson, to name but a few are quoted and analysed in the book. Two CD´s are included with the book with all 37 musical examples.
Violin Concerto named Work of the Year 2006
Áskell Másson received the Iceland Music Prize for his Violin Concerto which was named “Work of the year 2006”. At the prize ceremony January 31st, which took place at the Reykjavik City theatre and was broadcast directly by the Iceland State Television, the City Major of Reykjavik handed him a statuette verifying Másson´s Violin Concerto as “The work of the year 2006” in the category of “Classical and contemporary music”
The judges said of the work:
“Áskell Másson has been particularily prolific and creating in the year 2006. The Violin Concerto is one of his works which received its premiere during the year, but in addition to this, one could name the works Bois Chantant, Quatrain and Introvertical visions. The Violin Concerto bears strong characteristics of its author, being energetic and having rhythmical sharpness, brilliancy of colours and verifying his unique ability in orchestration”.