Mini Stories

£12.00

Haflidi Hallgrimsson is one of the leading figures in Icelandic musical life, and his work Mini Stories sets the surreal poetry of the soviet-era writer Daniil Kharms to music. Whilst internationally renowned actor Simon Callow brings Kharms’s texts to life, the Icelandic Caput Ensemble reflect the mood with stellar performances of Hallgrimsson’s evocative accompanying composition.

 

SKU: SIGCD181

What people are saying

“This CD is an unique gem, gripping from beginning to end, superbly recorded and annotated by the composer, complete with a biography of Kharms and full texts… Enthusiastically Recommended” MusicalPointers.co.uk
   
“Callow waxes opulently lyrical in narrating Daniil Kharms’ absurdist tales and Halgrimmsson’s music is, by contrast, stark and dark … It’s the ideal combination to give a vivid sound picture of these acrid aphoristic tale.” Classical Music Magazine
     
“Delightful and evocative treatments … in this impeccable recording with top-notch sound … it handsomely rewards getting to know.” The Gramophone

Hafliði Hallgrímsson
Caput Ensemble
Narrator, Simon Callow

Release date:30th Nov 2009
Order code:SIGCD181
Barcode: 635212018125

  1. A Suite – –
  2. Scene – –
  3. A Fable – –
  4. The Centre of the Universe – –
  5. Incidents – –
  6. Script – –
  7. A Sonnet – –
  8. Rondino – –
  9. An Optical Illusion – –
  10. Mystical Navigation – –
  11. What They Sell in the Stores Nowadays – –
  12. Red Trees, Blue Sky, Dead Leaves – –
  13. Petrakov – –
  14. Singing Lesson – –
  15. A Play – –
  16. Left Hand Singing – –
  17. A Dream – –
  18. The Ship Sails North – –
  19. A Young Man Who Astonished a Watchman – –
  20. March For One – –
  21. Losing Things – –
  22. Seven Halos – –
  23. Victory Boogie-Woogie – –
  24. Blue Notebook No. 10 – –

MusicalPointers.co.uk, December 2009

The Edinburgh based Icelandic composer Hafliði Hallgrímsson, formerly Principal Cellist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra until 1981, is also a leading figure in Icelandic musical life.

Mini Stories (1997/2002) sets surreal poetry by the soviet-era writer Daniil Kharms, who died of starvation in a Leningrad prison hospital in 1942. His fate is echoed in the last of these little stories, about a red-haired man who is "dismantled" until he ceases to exist… "an unsettling piece of music-theatre which makes you laugh one minute, then you feel vaguely guilty for having done so" (The Scotsman).

Simon Callow narrates Kharms’s texts brilliantly in English and seven members of the flexible Icelandic new music Caput Ensemble contribute Hallgrímsson’s evocative music which really holds the attention and enhances the effects of the stories.

This CD is an unique gem, gripping from beginning to end, superbly recorded and annotated by the composer, complete with a biography of Kharms and full texts. The music was recorded in Iceland (2003) and the narration in London (2005) – you’d never guess ! I hope they get together and bring it live to Wigmore Hall or Kings Place?

Enthusiastically recommended.

 

Peter Grahame Woolf

Classical Music Magazine, 30th January 2010

Callow waxes opulently lyrical in narrating Daniil Kharms’ absurdist tales and Halgrimmsson’s music is, by contrast, stark and dark except for the cathartic Victory Boogie-Woogie. It’s the ideal combination to give a vivid sound picture of these acrid aphoristic tales. Engaging stuff if you can stand the unrelentingly bleak nihilism of the words.

 

Philip Sommerich

The Independent, 1st January 2010

‘Mini Stories’ features plumy recitations by Simon Callow of the Russian surrealist Daniil Kharms’ Kafkaesque tales from the 1930’s, interspersed with the Icelandic composer Haflidi Hallgrimsson’s modernist musical interludes. Dissonances reflect the grim absurdism of the stories, which have the bearing of aphoristic commentaries on the Stalin era. It’s oddly threatening: brushed drums and dramatic strings provide a full-stop to incidents including death, disease and disappearance, while woodwind ruminates and harmonium adds a miasmic drone.

 

The Gramophone, April 2010

Delightful and evocative treatments of absurdist Russian miniature tales

Daniil Kharms (b1905 as Daniil Iuvachev, d1942 in a Stalinist prison) was best known as a writer of offbeat children’s stories but his heart – and principal legacy – lay in avant-garde aesthetics. Before the Stalinist regime choked the life out of the Futurist movement of the 1920s and ‘30s, Kharms was a leading figure and paid deadly for his involvement later. In 1997 Icelander Hafliði Hallgrímsson selected a dozen tiny texts of an absurdist cast, interspersed with a dozen instrumental interludes, to form an engaging 50-minute theatre piece. There are no specific connections between the texts (which range in Callow’s beautifully enunciated and characterized readings from 1’19” to 3’24”) but collectively they generate a surreal (and apolitical) portrait of the Russia of the late 1920s, full of bizarre conjunctions and wry humour.

Originally the narratives were unaccompanied but in 2002 he revised the score and added brief accompaniments. These broaden the scope musically, being closer in mood to Kharms’s texts. Hallgrímsson’s design in the interludes had been to create “music that is at variance with the text itself” and succeeded without music and narration being at odds. The interludes alone make an effective 25-minute suite.

The excellent Caput Ensemble catch the rarefied and delicate atmosphere of each movement to perfection, but this will not surprise anyone who knows their many previous recordings. The climax comes in the instrumental number XXIII, “Victory Boogie-Woogie”, in which they let rip to thrilling effect. A slow-burner of a work, true, but in this impeccable recording with top-notch sound (Callow, incidentally, was recorded almost three years after the music was set down), it handsomely rewards getting to know.

 

Guy Rickards