Beauty and Chaos

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra returns to the UK 

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra (ISO) will return to the United Kingdom this month, with a seven-concert tour under the direction of new Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Eva Ollikainen.

The tour, which will span iconic classical music venues across the country, including the Cadogan Hall, the Birmingham Symphony Hall, Usher Hall in Edinburgh and Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall, promises to showcase the orchestra’s well-documented “pedigree and class” as well as Iceland’s cultural prowess.

Since her tenure as Chief Conductor began at the start of the 2020-21 season, Ollikainen has dedicated herself to building a strong relationship with the orchestra, rehearsing and performing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic at Harpa Concert Hall, the ensemble’s home in Reykjavik. Having taken advantage of pandemic circumstances to “really get to know the players and for them to get to know me,” Ollikainen will now share the results of their work with audiences in the UK with a programme that seeks to display the universality of emotions which pay no respect to nationality.

To this end, the ISO’s UK programme will feature emotive works such as Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3, performed by Sir Stephen Hough, as well as the orchestra’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5. Alongside these adored historic works, the tour’s programme will also include a composition by ISO Composer-in-Residence, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, supporting the orchestra’s overarching mandate to advance Icelandic music across the globe.

Thorvaldsdottir’s work, METACOSMOS, seeks to illuminate the relationship between beauty and chaos through a 14-minute instrumental exploration of timbres and textures. Originally written for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and premiered in the UK at the 2019 BBC Proms, the work, and its composer, have been in high demand across the globe ever since. However, it is the contemporary expertise of the ISO and a shared understanding of the “spirit of the music of our times” that has drawn Thorvaldsdottir to Reykjavik and onto the UK tour. In dedicating the first half of each UK concert to the work, the ISO hopes to leave audiences with an understanding that it is from chaos that beauty will often emerge.

To learn more about Iceland’s performing arts scene and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, read the April edition of International Arts Manager.

Tour dates

Thursday 20 April 2023
Cadogan Hall, London 

Friday 21 April 2023
Symphony Hall, Birmingham 

Sunday 23 April 2023
Usher Hall, Edinburgh 

Tuesday 25 April 2023
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester 

Wednesday 26 April 2023
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham 

Thursday 27 April 2023
St David’s Hall, Cardiff 

Friday 28 April 2023
The Anvil, Basingstoke