Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir

Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir is an Islandic composer from Reykjavik. Her pieces Konan og drekinn, Hjálprædid and magten Englar Mikaels will be performed by Gro Bergrabb in Bodø Domkirke.

Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir studied in the Reykjavík Con­servatory of Music, department of Theory and Composition and graduated in 1989. Her teachers there were Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson and Atli Heimir Sveinsson. From 1989 to 1992, she studied composition in Hamburg, with Professor Günter Friedrichs, and Copenhagen, with Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen.


To see and hear more of Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir:



Among her compositions are two children’s operas, A Dance Cocktail, for small orchestra, a Concerto for violin and orchestra, Mass for Guðbrandur for choir, 4 soloists and orchestra, The Evening, for soprano and chamber orchestra, music for the documentaries We are still here and Skjól og skart, plus quite a few songs, choral works and chamber music. Hildigunnur has had her pieces performed around Europe, the United States, Australia and Canada. She teaches composition, Writing for the Voice, aural skills, sight reading and more in the Iceland University of the Arts.

The festival theme is «truth?». Can music be true? Is this something you are struggling with in your compositions?

Music must be true. It is a reflection of oneself. When you make a piece of music it reflects a part of your inner self. Not always the same part, sometimes whole, sometimes fractured and in one’s collection of works I would hope that a big part of one’s person comes to light.

How do you work when choosing your musical material, what do you listen for?

I like to explain my musical material as tonal/modal with a twist that’s fairly my own. I tend to jump between chords without too much preparation and I certainly do a play on rhythmical variety. I often pick a rhythmic pattern to start with, as there can be considerable choice anxiety when starting a new piece.

Your piece at the festival is from the collection «I heard the sound of their wings”. Can you tell us a bit about that project?

My piece, a 3 part work for organ is from the collection I heard the sound of their wings. The collection is the master project of organist Lára Bryndís Eggertsdóttir. She commissioned seven pieces from seven different Icelandic composers. The pieces should be in fairly short movements, both suitable for prelude and postlude in a church setting and also as concert music. The themes were wings, found in various Bible verses. My wings are dragon wings so I made the first and last movement powerful and pushing the limits. The middle movement is a quiet reflection, as fits with the verse I got as my inspiration.

Konan og drekinn

The Icelandic organist, Lára Bryndís Eggertsdóttir commissioned 7 pieces from Icelandic composers. The composers should use texts from the Bible as inspiration for the pieces. I got to choose a text so I had the 12. verse from the Book of Revelations about the Woman and the Dragon.

1. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

2. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

3. When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring.