Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Anna Thorvaldsdottir is an Icelandic composer, born in 1977.  At Nordic Music Days in Bodø, she is presented with the piece Ró. It’s a Norwegian premiere.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music is composed as much by sounds and nuances as by harmonies and lyrical material. It is written as an ecosystem of sounds and materials that are carried from one performer – or performers – to the next throughout the progress of a work. All materials continuously grow in and out of each other – as a performer plays a phrase, harmony, texture or lyrical line, it is being delivered to another performer as it transforms and develops, passed on to be carried through until it is passed on again to yet another. Anna’s music is often inspired in an important way by nature and its many qualities, and the qualities she tends to be inspired by are often structural, like proportion and flow, as well as relationships of balance between details within a larger structure, and how to move in perspective between the two – the details and the unity of the whole.

Anna’s music is frequently performed internationally, and has been featured at major venues and music festivals such as Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, the Composer Portraits Series at New York’s Miller Theatre, the Leading International Composers series at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, Big Ears Festival, BBC Proms, Spitalfields Music Festival, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Lucerne Summer Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Her works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions – most notably, Anna is the recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize 2012 for her work Dreaming, the New York Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer Award in 2015, and Lincoln Center’s 2018 Emerging Artist Award and 2018 Martin E. Segal Award.

Some of the orchestras and ensembles that have performed Anna’s work include International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, NDR Elbphilharmonie, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Yarn/Wire, The Crossing, the Bavarian Radio Choir, Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Avanti Chamber Ensemble, CAPUT Ensemble, Oslo Philharmonic, and Either/Or Ensemble.

In April 2018, Esa-Pekka Salonen lead the New York Philharmonic in the premiere of Anna’s work METACOSMOS, which was commissioned by the orchestra, and the work received its European premiere with the Berlin Philharmonic in January 2019, conducted by Alan Gilbert. METACOSMOS will receive its UK premiere at the BBC Proms in 2019. Anna’s most recent orchestral work – AIŌN – was co-commissioned by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony Orchestra and premiered at the Point Music Festival in Gothenburg in May 2019, conducted by Anna-Maria Helsing. Anna is currently Composer-in-Residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. In spring 2019, she also held a residency at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Anna holds a PhD from the University of California in San Diego.

To see and hear more of Anna Thorvaldsdottir:




This octet for mixed ensemble was composed for the Icelandic ensemble CAPUT and received its world premiere in China at the Beijing Conservatory of Music in 2013. The title is an Icelandic word which has its origins in Old Norse and translates as ‘calm’ or ‘stillness’. In her preface to the score, Thorvaldsdottir writes to the performers:

“When you see a long sustained pitch, think of it as a fragile flower that you need to carry in your hands and walk the distance on a thin rope without dropping it or falling. It is a way of measuring time and noticing the tiny changes that happen as you walk further along the same thin rope. Absolute tranquillity with the necessary amount of concentration needed to perform the task.”