Entering Harpa, Reykjavík’s concerthall, this magnificent building made out of glass in the shape of honeycombs, looking like diamonds with changing color lights inside of them, shining in the pouring rain, gives one a warm and happy feeling. Although Harpa is on every guide’s list, coming here does not take you into another tourist trap, but prepares you for the real magic of an intense music experience.
Listening to “Mar”, written by Kjartan Ólafsson, played by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, feels magical. Written over five years, the composition contains lots of beautiful melodies. Kjartan says to listen for the þyngd – the heaviness, waves and movements in the music. The title “Mar” is an old Icelandic word meaning “Sea”. Kjartan is mainly inspired by Sibelius, a Finnish composer and his old teacher, Rautavaara who died not long after Kjartan started writing.
While listening, I feel like I’m being dragged along into some magical world built on easy music flying in the air, with dark, deep and heavy waves floating under me. It’s a magnificent moment. In the beginning the waves go back and forth like they want to take the audience along into the magic world that the orchestra is painting as a very relaxing, but unknown landscape in the mind of the listeners. But suddenly something happens in this peaceful place, the calmness disappears and the ground starts to shake, probably earthquakes. After some time, the harp starts playing arpeggios with the chords, which then start to change and become more weird-sounding, diminished and augmented at the same time. The piece is building up again to prepare the most beautiful part. When this unstable passage is over, it feels like the magic world is new again, fresh and more mature after the eruptions. The adventure comes to an end with relaxing, light and beautiful tones that slowly disappear in a diminuendo until there’s nothing left and I’m back sitting in Harpa with people sitting around me. I’m back in the reality of the dark Icelandic weather.