Haflidi Hallgrímsson was himself a cellist, and these two works reflect his utter confidence in writing for the instrument. The Cello Concerto is a major addition to the modern repertoire; it is wholly modern in style, full of beautiful writing for both soloist and orchestra, and it never sounds as if the tonal or more approachable bits have been tossed in as a sop to conservative listeners. It's all of a piece, a seamless flow half an hour long full of contrast and color. My only reservation, a small one, both here and in Herma, concerns the fact that there's a lot of slow music here. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, except that you have to accept that the traditional dramatic dialog typical of the solo concerto doesn'tRead more seem to be a major aspect of Hallgrímsson's design. Forewarned is forearmed: this is good music.
Herma is an Icelandic word the meaning of which isn't entirely clear, but that doesn't matter. Scored for cello and strings, the work is another concerto in all but name. It's a bit more difficult and requires more concentration from the listener than its disc-mate on account of the less colorful scoring, but it sustains its length very well. Truls Mørk plays both pieces with rich tone, total confidence, and a sure sense of the music's expressive trajectory. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, of which Hallgrímsson was principal cellist, does its colleague proud, and Ondine's sonics are excellent. Definitely worth getting to know.